Mamata’s pro-Maoist remarks rock Parliament

Mamata Banerjee had questioned the manner in which Maoist leader Azad was killed.

New Delhi: The Congress found itself cornered by a united opposition in Parliament Tuesday over Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee`s speech in Lalgarh questioning the manner in which Maoist leader Azad had been killed and the BJP demanding that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh intervene in the issue.

Both houses of Parliament witnessed vociferous demands to take up the issue and the Rajya Sabha was adjourned till 12 noon as soon as it met after witnessing noisy exchanges between the treasury and opposition benches.

At the rally in Lalgarh in West Bengal Monday, Banerjee slammed the killing of Cherukuri Rajkumar, alias Azad, in Andhra Pradesh July 2, suggesting it was a staged shootout.

Azad, who carried a reward of Rs 12 lakh on his head, was a member of the central committee of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist). He was gunned down along with a freelance journalist, Hem Chandra Pandey.

"A senior minister of the ruling alliance openly calls the killing of Azad wrong and the home minister is accepting it. The prime minister should intervene," BJP spokesperson Ravishankar Prasad told reporters in the Parliament House complex.

"Why is the Prime Minister quiet on the issue," Prasad asked, adding: "He has been quiet for the whole of this session."

The Mamata bashing, in fact, served to unite, for once, the BJP and the Left in the Lok Sabha.

When deputy leader of the BJP in Lok Sabha Gopinath Munde tried to raise the issue during question hour, Trinamool Congress MPs vigorously protested, prompting the Left party MPs to support Munde.

There was a heated exchange of words between Munde, who was also supported by his party MPs, and Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay.

Bandyopadhyay charged that the Left and the BJP were in alliance.

As the uproar continued, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said: "They (the opposition) do not want question hour to run."

With Congress MPs on their feet demanding the smooth functioning of question hour, Bansal pointed out that "Munde has not give notice" to raise the issue.

The Congress had said Monday that its West Bengal unit had extended "moral support" to the Lalgarh rally.

Answering queries, Congress spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed said party leader K. Keshava Rao, who is in-charge of West Bengal, had received an invitation from the rally organisers, who comprised intellectuals like writers and poets.

Asked about pro-Maoist tribal body People`s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) extending support to the rally, Ahmed said if some people were coming forward for the cause of peace, there was nothing wrong. "How can we stop them?" he asked.

He said the government and the party`s policy to deal with the Maoist problem emphasised both development and security aspect.

"If there are any grievances or wrong perceptions, these should be addressed and if there is lack of development, it should be done. However, violence must be dealt with firmly," Ahmed said.

He said the Congress did not take part in the rally as it had its own programmes on the day related to the party`s history and freedom struggle.


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