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Attend parliament regularly: Sonia chides Congress MPs

New Delhi, March 4 (IANS) The opposition walkout during last week’s budget presentation was against ‘democratic norms and traditions’, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said Thursday in a speech that also touched on left-wing extremism, the Pune and Kabul bombings as well as poor attendance in parliament.

‘The manner in which the opposition sought to disrupt the presentation of the budget speech is not in keeping with the democratic norms and traditions that we cherish. The disruptive approach of the opposition was evident to the entire nation,’ Gandhi said at a meeting of the Congress Parliamentary Party.

She added that the Congress had extended constructive cooperation to the National Democratic Alliance during its rule.

Gandhi stressed that the government was committed to addressing left-wing extremism from ‘developmental and law and order perspectives in partnership with the affected states’.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, she said, had provided adequate funds for an integrated action plan to combat the problem.

Expressing the party’s anguish and sorrow at the terror attacks in Pune and Kabul, she said the government’s resolve to fight these forces remained ‘firm, uncompromising and undiminished’.

The nine months since the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was voted back to power had ‘by no means been easy’, the alliance chairperson said.

‘We have faced many political and economic challenges. While some like the drought and global crisis have tested us, we have come through and remain firm to our dedication and resolve.’

She also chastised MPs for poor attendance in parliament.

‘Regular attendance (in parliament) is part of our basic duty and responsibility. Even to sit and listen to parliamentary proceedings is an education in itself. The time has come to take poor attendance on the part of members seriously.’

The Congress president said she felt compelled to refer to the issue of attendance in almost all her addresses to party MPs.

Pointing to the steps being taken to improve coordination between the party and the government, she said the ministers would brief MPs on important programmes and schemes.

Gandhi also complimented Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a ‘very successful’ visit to Saudi Arabia. ‘The warmth of his welcome and the positive outcome only add to our country’s prestige.’

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