The Bhartiya Janata Party's tussle with expelled leader Jaswant Singh cast a shadow on the first meeting of the Public Accounts Commitee of Parliament which saw a virtual boycott by the BJP and some of its allies like Shiv Sena.
Representatives of BJP, Shiv Sena and Swatantra Bharat PakshÂ kept away in protest against Singh's continuance as its chairman despite being asked to step down. "We stayed away as it was National Democratic Alliance's directive," said Shiv Sena representative in PAC, Anandrao Adsul. Though BJP leaders refrained from making a formal statement, the party members are said to have been asked to stay away.
Adsul indicated that the boycott would continue till Singh headed the panel. BJP leaders said they were aware that he could not be removed as per rules, which say it cannot be done unless the Speaker finds him unable to discharge duties. As such, they were adopting a "wait and watch" attitude. Asked whether BJP and its allies have boycotted the meeting, Singh refused to react, saying, "ask the officials".
While Janata Dal-United MP N K Singh attended, BJP MPs Yashwant Sinha, Gopinath Munde, Shanta Kumar and Narayan Singh Kesari, besides Sharad Joshi of the SBP kept away. Sinha and Munde cited prior engagements for not attending the meeting. While some BJP leaders said the party had not formally told its members to skip the meeting, they will keep away till "some progress" is made in this regard. The BJP faced an embarrassing situation when Singh rejected its request to step down from the post after he was expelled from the party on August 19 following controversy over his book on M A Jinnah.