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Congressmen thump desks; cheer Manmohan in LS
Published on 30 Jul. 2009 1:46 AM IST
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It was clearly Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's day in the Lok Sabha Wednesday with Congress members repeatedly thumping their desks and cheering him as he countered the opposition's criticism of his recent foreign policy initiatives, while the debate on the issue saw fireworks and lighter moments alike in the house. The much-awaited special discussion on the India-Pakistan joint statement in Sharm el-Sheikh opened with former external affairs minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Yashwant Sinha launching a frontal attack on Manmohan Singh in the strongest possible language. Not surprisingly, the treasury benches intermittently hooted Sinha. The prime minister alternately seemed agitated over some of Sinha's remarks and bemused when Congress members interrupted the BJP leader and taunted him. The prime minister looked irritated when Sinha referred to his earlier remark on the government going halfway if Pakistan took credible action against the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. Sinha said: "He (Manmohan Singh) has walked all the way..... and into the Pakistani camp." He charged the prime minister with going back on "all pledges" made to parliament and said the "four pillars of foreign policy - end-use agreement, climate change, nuclear deal and Pakistan have crumbled like those of the (Delhi) metro". In the corridors, the prime minister's media adviser Harish Khare looked happy and asked journalists how the reply went. "It was good, what say?" Khare asked an IANS correspondent. Khare even kept track of the number of times Congress MPs thumped their desks. "It was 23 times," he beamed. When it was the turn of the Congress' P.C. Chacko to deliver a spirited speech taking potshots at the BJP, Sinha got up to leave. Many Congress members were immediately on ther feet, shouting at him and asking why was he unable to swallow the truth. Sinha returned in a minute to find Congressmen hollering: "He is back, he is back". The BJP leader shrugged, visibly irritated. Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh often looked at each other and laughed when Chacko lambasted the BJP. They were also seen thumping their desks. The debate also saw a war of words between Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and BJP members, who wondered aloud why Yadav was criticising some aspects of the government's foreign policy when his party was providing it external support. Yadav snapped back: "We fight for real issues of the people and where the government is going wrong, we will criticise it." National Democratic Alliance (NDA) convenor and Janata Dal-United leader Sharad Yadav, in his speech, referred to Chacko's charge that the NDA government had many a time erred in its foreign policy. Many members laughed out aloud when Sharad Yadav said: "We admit we made some mistakes and this is why we are sitting in the opposition. That does not mean you should also repeat the same mistakes."

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