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Cong. stand on Bofors issue shocks BJP - The Times of India

Inder Sawhney ()
24 February 1997

Title : Cong. stand on Bofors issue shocks BJP
Author : Inder Sawhney
Publication : The Times of India
Date : February 24, 1997

If one is looking for any significant outcome of the first two
sittings of the budget session of Parliament held last week, it
might be that the Congress, by taking an aggressive posture on the
sensitive issue of Bofors pay-offs, has succeeded in taking the
wind out of the sails of the BJP, the main opposition party.

Even as there were indications that the Congress would go on the
offensive on the Bofors issue as it felt that Rajiv Gandhi was not
among the recipients of pay-offs, the party's vociferous demand in
both houses for tabling of the entire set of documents received
from Switzerland came as a surprise to. the BJP as also the other

Incidentally, the Bofors issue figured on Friday when the BJP
boycotted the proceedings to register its protest against growing
lawlessness in Uttar Pradesh which had claimed the life of its MLA
Brahm Dutt Dwivedi. While the party MPs were away at Farrukhabad
to attend the condolence meeting, deputy leader of the party
Jaswant Singh, realising that the party's strategy had been
adroitly hijacked by the Congress in the house, lost no time in
demanding a Lok Sabha house committee should go into the Bofors

Although the BJP is on record having demanded that the documents
received from Switzerland The tabled, the party as well as its al
lies, the Akali Dal and the Samata Party, would be hard-put to go
any further vis-a-vis the latest Congress stand when Parliament
meets next week.

The BJP which had made it clear that it was not in favour of
no-confidence motion at the moment and wanted to use this "weapon"
at an opportune moment, was able to "retrieve" its position on the
issue of the notice of no-confidence motion served by the leader of
the Samata Party, Its alliance partner. For the time being, the
BJP has been able to convey that it has no differences with the
Samata Party over this issue.

The motion was put off till a more opportune moment, apparently
after an understanding between the two parties was reached. Lok
Sabha Speaker P.A. Sangma's announcement deferring the motion came
after Mr Fernandes met him (Mr Sangma) and conveyed to him that his
motion may be put off till after the budget is presented.

But for the furore on the Bofors deal and the "drubbing" the
government received in the Rajya Sabha over the issue of
ordinances, the proceedings remained on a tame note, the absence of
the BJP members being a major contributory factor.

However, what Is striking is that the President's address, the
first document on the policies and priorities of the United Front
government provoked comment, more on what was deleted from it at
the last moment, than what it contained. The BJP and its allied
took the opportunity of criticising the act of deletion of the
sentence referring to "failures in the past" while the Congress
which was perceived to he behind the act, as well as the United
Front constituents, tried to play down the faux pas.

Fortunately for the treasury benches the deletion controversy did
not figure on the following day because of the BJP boycott. The BJP
leader Atal Behari Vajpayee who is also leader of the opposition,
had threatened to raise the deletion issue on the floor of the

The practice of issuing ordinances showed the government in poor
light in the upper house, for minister of food and supplies
Devenedra Yadav was not even allowed to table the copy of the
ordinance allowing sugar exports and make a statement on the need
for promulgating the ordinance. Congress members took the
government to task for promulgating as many 13 ordinances soon
after the expiry of the last session.

Significantly, the President's address has thrown a broad hint
about the increase in the prices of petroleum products, going by
the grim picture painted in it about the oil pool deficit which is
expected to touch a whopping Rs 15,500 crore by the end of the
current year.

However, the address has focussed attention to the need for
generating adequate resources, not only to cover the current costs,
but also to take care of the fresh investments in areas such as
power, transport and irrigation.

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