New Delhi: Veteran Parliamentarian and senior BJP leader LK Advani courted trouble in the floor of the Lok Sabha on Wednesday by dubbing the UPA-II as "illegitimate". The BJP patriarch was forced to retract his statement later following strong protests from Congress and its allies.
Advani was speaking in Lok Sabha on reasons behind the spiralling violence in Assam when he took everybody by surprise by accusing the government of having spent crores to buy votes.
"The UPA-II is illegitimate. It has never happened in the history of India.... Crores of rupees were never spent to get votes," Advani said.
Within seconds of Advani making the charge, many members of the treasury benches were up on their feet slamming Advani.
An angry Congress President Sonia Gandhi was seen strongly objecting to the remark, apparently seeking its withdrawal.
"Withdraw, withdraw one word, withdraw," she said displaying some unusual aggression.
Gandhi, who is heading the UPA for the last eight years, was never seen in such a mood.
Gandhi`s protest prompted Leader of the House Sushil Kumar Shinde and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal to rise to their feet demanding withdrawal of the words.
Later, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh termed Advani`s remark as "disgraceful and unfortunate".
Amid the din, Leader of the House Sushilkumar Shinde demanded that Advani take back his words. Shinde’s demand was supported by other Congress members.
"Advani is a senior leader. We all respect him. But today he has said the entire (2009) election was illegitimate. This is an insult for all of us. He should withdraw his words," Shinde said.
Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar also requested Advani to reconsider his position.
But, Advani`s tried to convince the House saying his comment was in reference to the Vote of Confidence in 2008 and not related to UPA-2.
This did not cut ice with the Congress and UPA members who demanded that the BJP veteran withdraw his remarks.
With the din continuing, the Speaker adjourned the House for lunch. When the House reassembled, the Speaker observed that Advani has withdrawn those remarks and they would not form part of the records.
Advani admitted that he made a “mistake” by speaking about UPA-II and what he actually intended to say was the 2008 vote of confidence secured during the UPA-I.
"My comments were on the confidence vote and not on election. ... Those who were whistle-blowers were sent to jail," he said, "I withdraw the word illegitimate."
Tempers were also frayed in the Opposition benches with some of BJP members accusing the Congress of making a mountain of a molehill and dragging the matter in spite of a senior leader like Advani withdrawing his words.
Some BJP members also warned that the House would not be allowed to function smoothly if the Congress attitude remained as it was today.
With PTI inputs