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When allies left govt red-faced in Parliament
March 13, 2007 13:37 IST
Last Updated: March 13, 2007 21:24 IST
The Central government faced a major embarrassment on Tuesday when members of the Left parties and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam virtually came to blows after Surface Transport Minister T R Baalu was prevented from introducing a bill to set up a Maritime University in Chennai.
In a rarely seen event in Parliament, House marshals were summoned to restore calm.
Much to the glee of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Opposition, which described it as a 'civil war' in the ruling coalition, the United Progressive Alliance members squabbled over the introduction of the Indian Maritime University Bill, 2007 that resulted in five adjournments.
A stunned House saw Left members, who wanted the university to be set up in Kolkata, storming the well surrounding Baalu when he got up to table the measure. Immediately, DMK leaders, including Minister of State for Finance S S Palanimanickam sprang up from behind and formed a human wall in front of Baalu, leading to the summoning of Marshals.
The BJP-led opposition members were seen thumping desks enjoying the embarrassment faced by the government. A shocked Speaker Somnath Chatterjee immediately adjourned the House briefly but calm could not be restored even when it met again.
"It is a very sad day. This is not the way parliamentarians should behave. We should be role models for the entire country," he said.
As members of the treasury benches and some from the opposition tried to mediate, a livid Baalu vented his anger on Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi.
Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee deprecated the behaviour of the Left members and said if they had any objections that could be discussed in the House. CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury later sought to put the blame on the government.
He said it was aware of the concerns of the members from West Bengal, while Dasmunsi suggested that the CPI-M had kept him in the dark on notices opposing the introduction of the Bill.
Leader of the Opposition L K Advani said the incident was 'totally unprecedented' because it is within the ruling party as the 'coalition dharma' has been violated in an 'ugly manner,' a charge denied by the government and CPI-M later.
"I hope the civil war within the UPA has come to an end," Advani said, raising the discomfiture in the Congress-led coalition, which for the first time faced such an embarrassment in Parliament.
While CPI-M leader Basudeb Acharia expressed regret in the House over the 'unfortunate' incident, Yechury, speaking outside, declined to dub it as 'condemnable' maintaining that there was a strong sentiment in the state over the issue.
Yechury also told the government firmly that it will virtually have no option but to consult its key outside supporter on major bills before their introduction.