Congress faces heat over Mamata speech

Congress faces heat over Mamata speech

New Delhi: The ruling Congress party on Tuesday faced embarrassing moments in Parliament as opposition parties questioned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his government over railway minister Mamata Banerjee’s “public support" to Maoist rebels.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Left parties joined hands in demanding a response from the government over over Banerjee allegedly sharing the dais with Maoist leaders on Monday during a public rally in Lalgarh area of West Bengal. Singh has described the Maoists as India’s biggest internal security threat.

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In the Upper House, leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley led the attack on the government. “What we find today is that the principle of collective responsibility is being breached and there is a disagreement on the policy of the government" towards Maoists, he said.

Terming the episode as “shameful", BJP deputy leader in the Lok Sabha Gopinath Munde said: “The railway minister made a statement questioning the encounter death of Maoist leader Azad. She said it was a murder. Will the government agree with her and order a CBI (the Central Bureau of Investigation) probe?" Munde also asked why the Prime Minister was “silent" over the cabinet minister’s comments.

Maoist chief spokesman Cherukpuri Rajkumar, also known as Azad, was killed in Andhra Pradesh on 2 July.

Accusing Banerjee of hobnobbing with the Maoists, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) member Bansagopal Chowdhury asked the government to clarify its position.

A visibly upset finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said he would “ascertain the position" from Banerjee and respond to the members’ queries.

However, Banerjee’s party colleague Sudip Bandopadhyay maintained that his leader had gone to Lalgarh with a message of peace. “She is opposed to the politics of killings. She gave a call for stopping the violence. This House should support her," Bandopadhyay said.