Charges and counter-charges over links with Maoists flew thick and fast between the Opposition and the government on Thursday as the Lok Sabha began discussion on the Dantewada Naxal attack.
BJP leader Yashwant Sinha stirred the hornet's nest as he alleged that the Congress won the Andhra Pradesh elections by "joining hands" with the Naxals, which prompted sharp protests from the treasury benches.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister P K Bansal and several Congress members hit back alleging that BJP governments in some states had links with Naxals.
With several Congress members rising in protest over Sinha's allegation and BJP members countering it, Speaker Meira Kumar observed: "The House is discussing a very serious matter. This is not the time for allegations but for all parties to put their heads together and discuss how best we can eliminate" such elements.
She also asked Sinha not to level allegations which he cannot substantiate.
Earlier, Sinha also sought to embarrass the Congress by raising the issue of AICC General Secretary Digvijay Singh's attack on Home Minister P Chidambaram's handling of the Maoist issue as a law and order problem.
"While the Opposition is with the government in this fight against Naxals. Is the Congress and the UPA with the government in this fight," the former finance minister asked.
Sinha said that Singh has written an edit page article in a newspaper just a day before the Parliament session and has "challenged the entire policy of the government on Maoist menace".
"He (Singh) is talking about collective responsibility and when a senior leader, an office-bearer of AICC, makes such a challenge, he not only challenges the home minister but the entire government," he said.
In an apparent reference to Trinamool Congress, Sinha said that the ruling coalition itself was not united.
"Ruling coalition stands severely divided. There are elements in this coalition which are challenging the policy of the government,"
This was strongly disputed by DMK leader T R Baalu who asked Sinha to name those elements. The BJP leader merely remarked, "You know it as well as I do."
The House took up for discussion the Dantewada attack after Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav suggested that the issue be debated before the Home Minister makes a statement on the issue.
Sinha's remarks on linkages of Congress with Naxals sparked of a spate of allegations and counter-allegations. As members were unrelenting, the Speaker adjourned the House for 30 minutes.
The BJP leader said that the government should have made a suo motu statement on the Dantewada Naxal attack and should not have waited for the Opposition to raise the issue.
Seeking to emphasise the gravity of the Naxal problem, Sinha said that between 2004 and 2009 more people and security personnel have been killed in Naxal attacks than in the wars the country fought in the past.
He said as many as 4246 lives have been lost during these six years and 2524 of the victims were in two states -- Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
Sinha said 1500 people were killed in Pakistan's attacks in Jammu and Kashmir between 1947 and 1949. While 3,000 lives were lost in 1965 war, the Kargil war saw 522 casualties.
Only the 1971 war had higher casualties (5300) than in the Naxal attacks, he said.
When the Lok Sabha met again at 1 pm, Congress members demanded that Sinha should apologise for his remarks. Soon opposition benches were up on the feet countering the Congress on the issue of Naxalism.
The Speaker's assurance of checking the records of Sinha's remarks and taking appropriate action if necessary did not cut any ice with the members.
UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister P Chidambaram, along with otherCongress members, were seen animatedly discussing the matter and devising a way out for Chidambaram to make a statement on Dantewada attack.