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December 21, 2001
1522 IST

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Opposition boycotts meeting of defence ministry

Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi

Barely 48 hours after backing the government in Parliament in its fight against terrorism, opposition parties led by the Congress have done a flip flop and are back to stubbornly opposing the government.

On Friday, the Congress, Samajwadi Party and the Communist Party of India-Marxist decided to stay away from the consultative committee meeting of the ministry of defence, which is chaired by Defence Minister George Fernandes.

"We continue to maintain that George Fernandes' re-induction as defence minister is not only improper but wholly immoral. Now, the CAG has exposed the coffin scam, pertaining to the Kargil war when Fernandes was the defence minister," pointed out chief Congress spokesman S Jaipal Reddy.

"The nation is united in its hour of crisis. We have extended support to the government on an important national issue, but continue to oppose its misdirected policies and actions," Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said.

"The government cannot take our support for granted. The prime minister and home minister appealed to opposition parties to avoid discussions on the security lapses when Parliament was attacked by terrorists. But media reports have been reflecting our doubts on the issue," he said.

CPI-M Lok Sabha MP Basudeb Acharya also echoed a similar view adding that opposition parties would combine forces to oppose the government's moves.

The impending assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh appears to have goaded the Congress and Samajwadi Party into action owing to the high stakes involved.

Jaipal Reddy told reporters that all outstanding issues, which could not be taken up for discussion during the winter session, would be raised by his party during the budget session next year.

The BJP, however, heaved a sigh of relief when the winter session was adjourned sine die abruptly on December 19, two days ahead of schedule.

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