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Uproar in Parliament over rediff interview
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August 21, 2007 14:23 IST
Last Updated: August 21, 2007 15:19 IST

Both Houses of Parliament were rocked today over Indian Ambassador to US Ronen Sen's remarks to terming the opponents of the nuclear deal ''headless chicken''.

The uproar created by members of the Opposition and the Left parties led to frequent adjournments, despite the government denying the ambassador's statement, and promising a clarification from him.

As soon as both the Houses met for the day, members of all the parties, except those of the ruling Congress, demanded the ambassador's recall.

Ambassador Ronen Sen's interview to

In the Lok Sabha, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee sought to pacify the members by expressing regret over the ''comments which have hurt the feelings of the honourable members''.

Mukherjee said he had contacted Sen after his "purported" remarks and the latter had told him that the comments were
attributed to him "either deliberately or through misunderstanding".

He, however, said the ambassador had been misquoted and asked to issue a clarification.

Mukherjee even went to the extent of saying, ''If these comments have been made by the ambassador, and reported correctly, they are totally unwarranted and unacceptable, and in a democracy nobody can accuse others who hold divergent views.''

Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha L K Advani insisted that the full text of Sen's interview should be handed over to the House to help the members form a considered view on the issue.

The expression of ''regret'' on the part of the government did not assuage the anger of the members, with the Left MPs insisting that the interview was a part of a disinformation campaign launched across the world.

Speaker Somnath Chatterjee also made a strong plea to members to take their seats, saying, ''Parliament is in the position to take action if it found anyone showing disrespect to MPs and casting an aspersion on their freedom of expression''.

"If he (Sen) had said so, I will take action. I assure you no one can go scot free. Parliament of India is not powerless."

However, the MPs continued to be on their feet, forcing the Chair to first adjourn the House till 1130 hrs.

In the Lok Sabha, the issue was raised by CPI-M leaders Basudev Acharia and Mohammad Salim who found instant support from several of his party colleagues.

Ramjilal Suman and Mohan Singh (both Samajwadi Party) also supported them.

BJP Deputy leader V K Malhotra gave a notice for suspension of the Question Hour to take up the issue.

Salim said the issue was "a bipartisan matter" and was serious.

Later, as the House met again, the members again raised an uproar, compelling a second adjournment till 1400 hrs. When it reconvened, the Speaker adjourned the House for the day.

The Rajya Sabha too witnessed two adjournments over the issue.

The uproar created by a united Opposition and the Left over Sen's statement made it impossible for Chairman Hamid Ansari to conduct the Question Hour and he announced the House's adjournment for an hour within minutes of the beginning of the day's proceedings.

As soon as the House met, all the members except those from the treasury benches stood up on their seats waving copies of the ambassador's statement and demanding the Chair suspend Question Hour to take up the matter.

They said the ambassador had no right to make the comment as it was beyond his brief and ''was an insult to the country's parliamentarians''.

Several members rushed to the well of the House, protesting vociferously.

The chairman requested them to go back to their places and allow Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Suresh Pachauri to make a statement, following which the minister stood up but his words were lost in the din.

When Ansari's pleas fell on deaf years with the members being in no mood to listen to anything, he announced the adjournment of the House for an hour till 1200 hrs.

When the house met after 1200 hrs, the issue again rocked the House.

Leader of the Opposition Jaswant Singh accused the ruling UPA of adopting an "unhappy tendency".

Citing the instance of the ambassador explaining to ruling alliance partners the intricacies of the nuclear deal, he said this tendency was "highly objectionable".

Singh apprehended a situation where the Executive could become totally unaccountable to the Legislature and said this should not be allowed to happen.

Coming out in open support of the BJP leader, Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) expressed "anguish" over the remarks against those opposed to the deal even before a debate has taken place on the issue.

"This is an insult and affront to the institution of legislature," he said.

Demanding a close examination of the "authenticity and veracity" of the envoy's remarks, Yechury said if it was true the "next logical step should follow. This gentleman cannot represent India in the US."

BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said Sen and the correspondent who reported the remarks should be summoned to the House which should serve as a privilege committee.

Sinha said there could be "nothing worse" than a Government of India official saying something against Parliamentarians.

"I am making a formal proposal (of summoning the envoy and the correspondent to the bar) and the whole House should be made a Privilege Committee," he said.

Sinha said there as a precedent when a former member of the House was called to the bar.

When the Chairman said the demand was "premature" as Mukherjee's statement was quite clear, NDA and Third Front
members rushed towards the well.

In the prevailing din, Ansari asked Ministers to lay papers marked against their names. This further angered the Opposition members who started shouting slogans in the well.

Amidst noisy scenes that continued for 15 minutes, the Chair adjourned the House till 1400 hours.

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