On 26/11 anniversary, ugly scenes in parliament (Lead)

New Delhi, Nov 26 (Inditop.com) As the nation united in grief on the first anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks, the Indian parliament witnessed an ugly scene with Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee indulging in a slanging match over providing relief to the 26/11 victims, prompting cries of “shame, shame” from many MPs.

During zero hour in the Lok Sabha, Advani voiced concern over the “slow pace” of relief to the victims. Mukherjee promptly hit back, accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of exploiting 26/11 for “political gains”.

Advani asked the home ministry to coordinate the relief and rehabilitation efforts to provide relief to the affected people. He said the Maharashtra government, central government and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) have assured proper relief and rehabilitation to victims of the Mumbai terror strike. “But the relief was given at a slow pace,” he said.

Advani said out of 403 people eligible for relief, only 118 have received cheques. He said 64 of them were eligible for railway jobs but only 32 have received offers.

He suggested that the home minister (P. Chidambaram) should take the initiative in the matter and a special cell be created in the home ministry, with an officer on special duty as the head, to look into the “problem of coordination” between 12 different agencies, including eight of the state government.

Soon after Advani’s speech, Speaker Meira Kumar invited Congress MP Madhu Goud Yaskhi to raise another matter.

But BJP leader Ananth Kumar asked the government to respond to Advani’s demand, pointing to Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee’s presence in the house.

An agitated Mukherjee retorted that he had rushed to the house to listen to the Leader of Opposition, and not to hear Ananth Kumar speak.

“I have come only to listen to him (Advani). Not to hear from you (Ananth Kumar),” Mukherjee said cuttingly, adding that every zero hour reference could not be answered. “Don’t make it a practice,” he said.

This remark led to heated exchange of words between Mukherjee and BJP MPs, led by Ananth Kumar.

“You are making politics out of 26/11. You did that too earlier, and were paid back… You will be again paid back in your own coin,” an angry Mukherjee shouted.

Speaker Meira Kumar tried to pacify Ananth Kumar, saying it was a solemn occasion and one should maintain its solemnity.

“Today is a very solemn day. The house paid our condolences and passed a resolution on 26/11,” she said. The house had observed two minutes’ silence to remember those killed in the 26/11 strike.

Congress MP and spokesperson Manish Tiwari said outside parliament: “When a joint resolution against terror was passed in both the houses of the parliament, the opposition should have maintained a little more restraint.”

Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D. Raja said, “Today is a day to express deep remorse and not fight in parliament.”

The BJP later alleged that Pranab Mukherjee had been impolite to party leader Ananth Kumar in the Lok Sabha.

“His (Mukherjee’s) remarks were not in good taste,” BJP leader Sushma Swaraj told mediapersons. She said Mukherjee was the Leader of the House and should have answered the question in the same tenor as that of the member according to parliamentary etiquette.

The BJP leader said that 26/11 was a national tragedy on which the country needs to stand united and his party will be in the forefront.

Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said the country had learnt lessons from the Mumbai attacks and was better prepared to deal with any such situation. Asked about the delay in providing relief to victims, Ahmed said he was not in a position to say what was the lacuna. “But we as a party request the centre and Maharashtra government that any lapse should be addressed immediately.”