Mamata’s statement on naxals rocks Rajya Sabha


MSN News | The Indian Express | PTI | 10/08/2010

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday gave notices in both Houses of Parliament for the suspension of Question Hour and demanded a discussion on Trinamool Congress chief and Union Minister Mamata Banerjee’s statement on Maoists made at her Lalgarh rally on Monday. “The BJP Parliamentary Party discussed the issue and decided that a notice be given for suspension of Question Hour today in both Houses to hold a discussion on how a Union Minister was supporting Maoists,” Deputy Leader of BJP in the Rajya Sabha S. S. Ahluwalia said. Rajya Sabha was on Tuesday adjourned till 1200 noon following clashes between treasury benches and Opposition BJP which wanted suspension of Question Hour to discuss Banerjee’s alleged support to Maoists at her Lalgarh rally. When the House met for the day, Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley said, “I have given a notice for suspension of Question Hour to discuss a matter of serious importance.” He was, however, not allowed to speak further by Congress members who demanded that the listed questions be taken up first.

Very unseemly

The plea of members from the treasury benches was strongly opposed by S. S. Ahluwalia (BJP) who said Chairman Hamid Ansari had allowed Leader of the Opposition to speak and no one has the right to disrupt him. As the two sides engaged in wordy duel, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Prithviraj Chavan rose to say something but was shouted down. Ansari repeatedly asked the members to resume their seats so that Jaitley could make a statement but his pleas went unheeded. The BJP wanted a statement from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Banerjee’s rally on Monday where she allegedly supported Maoists. “This is very unseemly,” Ansari said before adjourning the House.

Peace message

On Monday, Mamata Banerjee had issued a “peace” message to the Maoists and combined it with her pressing need to make inroads in the Naxal heartland, a CPM bastion where her Trinamool Congress has had little electoral success so far. Addressing a mammoth rally in Lalgarh in West Midnapore district, she urged the Maoists: “Tell me what you demand. Give a time. Tell me the place and I am ready to initiate the peace process.” She asked Maoists and tribals in Lalgarh to spell out clearly what they wanted. If they wanted schools, colleges, hospitals, roads, she said, that would be ensured. “Just wait for a few more months and the Marxists will be out of power. I promise to bring development here. If you want jobs, I can set up a railway factory in Lalgarh to provide jobs to the unemployed.”  

Azad murdered!

On the July 2 killing of Maoist spokesperson Azad in an encounter with the Andhra police, Banerjee said: “I believe Azad had been murdered. It was unjust. But peace talks should be started… I pay my respect and tribute to Azad.” She said she was ready to visit Dantewada in Chhattisgarh and was ready to talk to the Maoists there too. She invited Swami Agnivesh, Medha Patekar and other national leaders to visit Lalgarh and “areas of strifein West Bengal.” At the same time, she tried to distance herself from Maoist violence and bloodshed. “I have no support for those Maoists who are killing people. I do have the guts to tell them standing here in Lalgarh that I do not support them. On this historic day of Quit India movement, the people of Lalgarh must take a pledge that terror has to quit Lalgarh,” she said. The Maoists will have to seek a solution to their problems through Constitutional and democratic means, she said. “We have won battles in Singur and Nandigram through peaceful means. And we can do it in Lalgarh.”

If she was critical of Maoists indulging in the politics of killing, she renewed her demand for withdrawal of joint operations in the region. “It is only helping the CPM,” she said. “The CPM cadres are carrying out raids in CRPF and police fatigues in the region and capturing villages. The leaders at the Centre were being misled and fed wrong information,” Banerjee alleged. Clearly, with this rally — after 13 months — Banerjee is testing the political waters. In the 42 Assembly seats that cover the Naxal heartland of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia, her party has none. Even in the Panchayat elections and the 2009 Lok Sabha where she rode an anti-CPM wave, the Trinamool made hardly a dent here. With her eyes firmly set on the 2011 Assembly polls, this is one region she can hardly ignore. She even asked one of the most trusted lieutenants, Subhendu Ahikari, MP from Tamluk, to take on the “Marxist challenge” in CPM bastions Lalgarh, Jhargram and Salboni.

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