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Home > News > The Great Defence Scandal > Report

Shekhawat trying to end opposition
boycott of George Fernandes


Josy Joseph in New Delhi | March 03, 2003 21:36 IST

In a bid to end the controversy involving George Fernandes, Vice President and Rajya Sabha chairman Bhairon Singh Shekhawat is believed to be talking to opposition parties to end their boycott of the defence minister.

The opposition is unhappy with Fernandes' inductioninto theUnion Cabinetin October 2001 even before the completion of the probe into the issues raised by Tehelka regarding kickbacks in defence deals.

The boycott is executed on two fronts:

Opposition members put up questions in Parliament regarding the defence ministry, but walk out of the House the moment Fernandes gets up to answer them.

Secondly, they have not been attending meetings of the Consultative Committee of the Defence Ministry, chaired by Fernandes.

However, though the ruling front is embarrassed by these steps, the opposition parties are not entirely happy with the situation.

"The strategy has failed to achieve anything and George is having a free run in his ministry," an opposition leader pointed out.

Sources said the opposition indicated that it is ready to end the standoff, but only after a compromise is worked out 'on our terms'.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is believed to have sent word through Sekhawat to the opposition requesting them to end the impasse, unprecedented in the recent history of Parliament.

Sekhawat's job now is to find a respectable compromise that will enable the opposition leaders to end the boycott of Fernandes.

Sekhawat qualifies the job of negotiator as apartfrom being the chairman of the Rajya Sabha, he isalso known to have a vast network of friends in the opposition. A liberal BJP leader before he became Vice-President, Sekhawat also enjoys the confidence of the prime minister.

It is quite possible that the matter would be resolved before the end of this session.


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