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Parliament Winter Session: Govt says no apology, standoff goes on

NEW DELHI, Dec 20: The Congress continued to stall Rajya Sabha Wednesday, demanding a clarification from Prime Minister Narendra Modi over an electoral speech in Gujarat about his predecessor Manmohan Singh, even as chairman M Venkaiah Naidu told Congress MPs that “nobody is going to give an apology” for a statement that was not made in the House.

In an attempt to resolve the impasse, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had, according to Congress leaders, offered Tuesday to make a statement on behalf of the Prime Minister, but the Congress insisted that the Prime Minister come to the House to clarify since he had levelled the allegation.

After the House was adjourned for the day Wednesday, Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Congress is not insisting on an apology from the PM but cannot agree to somebody else clarifying on the Prime Minister’s behalf.

During the Gujarat poll campaign, Modi had alleged that Manmohan Singh had attended a secret meeting at Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s house and added that former Pakistan army director general Arshad Rafiq had insisted that Congress leader Ahmed Patel be made CM of Gujarat.

“The allegation that the Prime Minister had made is very serious,” Azad said. “The Prime Minister should either prove his allegation or come to the House and say what he said was an election stunt since his party was losing the elections in Gujarat. He should say he had tried to paint the leaders of the Congress as anti-national to win the elections… and say, ‘Since my job is done. I have won the elections, I withdraw my statement’.”

The Opposition leader added, “If the Prime Minister thinks it is beneath his dignity to apologise, let him simply say that it was an electoral stunt and I withdraw what I had said. Even that is agreeable to us.”

Senior Congress leaders said Manmohan Singh is “deeply upset” and “hurt” by the Prime Minister’s allegation. “Even a telephone call by the Prime Minister to Manmohan Singh to clear the air could be enough…” a senior Congress leader said.

Congress members chanting “Pradhan Mantri maafi mango, Pradhan Mantri sharam karo” disrupted Rajya Sabha proceedings, leading to multiple adjournments. “Don’t create obstruction… There is no order in the House….This is not the way. This is Parliament, the Upper House,” Naidu said. “A wrong message is going out, which is not good for you, for the country and the House… I don’t appreciate your behaviour. Don’t exceed limits.”

When the House reassembled after the first adjournment, slogan-shouting resumed, prompting Naidu to say, “Nobody is going to give apology. Nothing happened in this House. No statement is made in this House. So there is no practice of suspending question hour. Don’t make a mockery of the House.”

Azad later met Naidu in his chamber to convey his objection to that observation. Azad said the question is not whether the allegation was made in the House or not; it was made against a member of the House. “Manmohan Singh is a gentle person. Otherwise he could have given a notice for breach of privilege against the Prime Minister… he is entitled to move a privilege. It would set a wrong precedent to bring a privilege notice against the Prime Minister… That is why we are not in favour… that is why we are asking the Prime Minister to come to the house and withdraw his statement,” Azad said.

The House could not transact any business. Amid the commotion, the chairman also read out a resolution adopted by Rajya Sabha in 2012 resolving to “uphold and maintain the dignity, sanctity and supremacy of Parliament, make it an effective instrument of change and to strengthen democratic values and principles, to enhance the accountability of the government towards the people through the oversight of Parliament and to rededicate ourselves completely to the sacred task of nation building”.

“I suggest to all of you to please remember the solemn pledge taken by all of us not to disturb the question hour, not to create an unruly scenes,” Naidu said.

Naidu sworn in as vice president

NEW DELHI, Aug 11: M Venkaiah Naidu was today sworn in as the 15th vice president of India.

President Ram Nath Kovind administered the oath of office and secrecy to Naidu, 68, at a ceremony in the Durbar Hall of Rashtrapati Bhawan.

War not a solution, issue can be resolved through talks: Sushma on Doklam standoff with China

NEW DELHI, Aug 3: War was not a solution and India would resolve the border standoff with China through dialogue, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said on Thursday, as the Communist neighbour again asked New Delhi to withdraw troops from Doklam if it wanted peace.

It was not possible to resolve every issue through war and solutions could be found through talks, Swaraj told the Rajya Sabha about the standoff between the border guards of the two countries close to Sikkim in India’s northeast.

“Patience and bhasha saiyam (restraint) are very important to resolve the issue. If there is no restraint, it provokes the other side,” Swaraj said during a four-and-a-half-hour discussion on India’s foreign policy and engagement with strategic partners.

Opposition member raised various issues including Doklam standoff, China’s attempts to encircle India and New Delhi’s Pakistan policy.

“Countries have armies to stay prepared for war. But war is not a solution to anything. Even after war, there has to be a dialogue. So have dialogue without a war,” she said.

Faced with an aggressive Opposition charge led by the Congress, Swaraj hit back at the party over Rahul Gandhi’s meeting with Chinese ambassador Luo Zhaohui in July. Without naming the Congress vice-president, Swaraj said the Opposition leader met the Chinese envoy without seeking information about the standoff from the government.

The Opposition leader should have first understood the government’s viewpoint on and then met the Chinese envoy and conveyed him India’s viewpoint, the minister said.

“You should have first sought details from the government and then confronted the Chinese envoy,” she said.

Indian and Chinese soldiers are locked in a standoff since June 16, with China accusing India of trespass and preventing its soldiers from building a road in disputed region of Doklam.

Bhutan and India maintain that Doklam, or Donglang as the Chinese call it, is a Bhutanese territory. The road, if built, would have serious implication for India’s security.

The Chinese have taken an aggressive stand on the border impasse and has even warned of a war.

India was negotiating with China not only on Doklam but issuing relating to the overall bilateral relationship, she said.

The minister also brushed aside the Opposition’s contention that the government had no policy to deal with Pakistan, saying India had a roadmap for peace but it could not be one-sided.

“Terror and talks cannot go together. The day they stop promoting terror, we will start the talks,” Swaraj said.

She said the government had extended hand of friendship towards Pakistan but the whole story changed after Hizbul militant Burhan Wani’s killing in Kashmir last year.

“The Pakistani PM called him shaheed (martyr). Things changed after that,” she said.

Dismissing allegations that Indian foreign policy wasn’t delivering, Swaraj said New Delhi was shaping global agenda.

“You say during 1971, the US was with Pakistan, and Russia was supporting India. Today both Russia and the US are supporting India. This reflects the success of our foreign policy,” she said.




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