BJP parliamentary party meets to discuss strategy on VVIP chopper scam, Shinde

BJP parliamentary party meets to discuss strategy on VVIP chopper scam, Shinde
New Delhi:  The BJP's top leaders are meeting at LK Advani's residence right now to discuss the party's strategy for the Budget session of Parliament that begins on Thursday. They will decide, among other things, how to take on the Congress-led UPA government on the 4000-crore VVIP chopper deal scandal and on how best to extract political mileage from Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde's "saffron terror" remark.

Sources say the Budget session could see as many disruptions as the last two sessions of Parliament, when the opposition forced multiple adjournments of both Houses and hardly any business was transacted. The Prime Minister attempted to pre-empt that yesterday by saying that his government is ready for a detailed inquest of alleged corruption in the deal for 12 Italian helicopters. "We have nothing to hide... we are ready to discuss all issues in Parliament," Dr Manmohan Singh said.

His ministers too have struck a conciliatory note offering to consider any discussion or investigation into the chopper deal that the opposition might demand, including an examination by a joint parliamentary committee or JPC. But the BJP, which has said corruption will be a key plank for general elections next year, is clear it will leverage the chopper scandal to accuse the government in Parliament of fostering yet another scam. It has demanded that the government state who the beneficiaries of alleged kickbacks in the deal are.

BJP members have already submitted several notices for discussion on the helicopter deal and Defence Minister AK Antony is expected to be a primary target; he will be asked to explain why the inquiry in India was ordered an entire year after the first reports about bribery surfaced in the media. Three months ago, Mr Antony had told Parliament that the government was unable to gain any information on the Italian investigation.

Sources said that while the actual presentation and tabling of Finance Minister P Chidambaram's Budget on February 28 is not likely to be disrupted, some BJP-sponsored fireworks around then can be expected.

The BJP will also set in place its Shinde strategy today. Just 20 days before the Budget session, the party's ideological mentor, the RSS, mandated that repackaged Hindutva will be a key election plank for the BJP in 2014. The attempt is to consolidate the party's traditional Hindu vote bank and the Home Minister's comments in December on "saffron terror" will be highlighted in Parliament.

BJP leaders have indicated earlier that they might decide to boycott Mr Shinde in Parliament, not allowing him to speak at all, as they had done with P Chiidamabram over 2G allegations, or then stay away from meetings called by him.   

Among other issues that the BJP plans to raise in Parliament this session is the demand for the resignation of Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha PJ Kurien over allegations in the Suryanelli rape case and the government's fuel pricing policy.


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