The hope of an orderly monsoon session was dashed on the first day today as senior BJP leader L K Advani declared the UPA-II government illegitimate,provoking angry reactions from the treasury benches,egged on by Sonia Gandhi.
As a cornered Advani made a retraction of sorts,the Congress refused to be pacified,forcing an adjournment.
It was an unexpected turn of events after the Lok Sabha seemed headed for an orderly session,with the government conceding the BJPs call for admission of an adjournment motion on the Assam situation. Then Advani,who initiated the discussion,made his remark and pandemonium broke loose.
Sonia did not get up to intervene,but could be seen prompting ministers to join issue with Advani. As the BJP leader tried to clarify,the Congress kept up its slogan shouting,forcing Speaker Meira Kumar to adjourn the House. BJP members also stood up to support their leader.
Normalcy returned when the House met after the adjournment. Kumar said: Advaniji has withdrawn (comments) to which you had objected. Consequently,it is not on the record.
Home Minister and the new Leader of the House Sushilkumar Shinde and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Pawan Kumar Bansal met Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj and her party colleague Ananth Kumar to work out a compromise.
While Advanis focus was on Assam,he made the controversial remark after he drifted on to his blog and eventually to the current regime. The UPA-II is illegitimate, he said,adding,It has never happened in the history of India… crores of rupees were never spent to get votes.
While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh remained seated in silence,a visibly provoked Sonia urged Shinde to intervene. Advani is a senior leader… we all respect him… but today,he has said that the entire election was illegitimate… So it is an insult to all the people who have elected us, Shinde said,demanding that Advani withdraw his remark.
His demand was reinforced by Bansal,who quoted rules to point out that Advani was digressing from the issue on which he was allowed to speak. He has made extraneous remarks which have denigrated the parliamentary system,the people and democracy, Bansal said.
Sonia then gestured to Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal to take Advani on. Sibal got up immediately,but whatever he spoke got drowned in the din.
Advani clarified that he was referring to the 2008 confidence vote and not the 2009 elections. However,he stopped short of saying that he had withdrawn the word illegitimate despite the Speaker suggesting that he do so. Sushma Swaraj too clarified that Advani was not referring to the present government.
But Congress members were not prepared to relent. Finally,in response to pleas from all over,including the Speaker,Advani said: Withdraw kar liya… Yes,I have withdrawn… I have withdrawn and I have said that my references were to the confidence motion and not to the 2009 elections.
Phir qualify kar diya, the Speaker was heard responding,and a renewed uproar followed. Sonia shook her head,rejecting Advanis retraction completely.
BJP members then sprang to their feet,accusing the Congress of stretching the matter in spite of a senior leader like Advani withdrawing his words. Seeing the tension on both sides,the Speaker adjourned the House.