BJP leader L K Advani Wednesday created a storm in the Lok Sabha by dubbing UPA-II as "illegitimate" but withdrew it after strong protests from Congress.
Advani, who came under carping attack with even Congress President Sonia Gandhi leading from the front, later said he was referring to the 2008 confidence vote for which "crores of rupees were spent" to save the government.
Hell broke loose in the House soon after Advani spoke of the UPA-II as illegitimate while initiating a debate on the violence in Assam after Speaker Meira Kumar admitted an adjournment motion on the subject.
"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, provoking the Treasury benches.
As an angry Gandhi was seen strongly objecting to the remark and apparently demanding withdrawal of the comment, Leader of Lok Sabha Sushilkumar Shinde appealed to him to withdraw the words.
"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. I think he should withdraw his words," Shinde said in his first intervention as the Leader of the House.
The Speaker also reminded Advani that she had allowed adjournment motion as people were concerned about the situation in Assam. "But one word used by you has hurt the sentiments of everyone. If you want, you can withdraw it."
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."
When the House reassembled after lunch, the Speaker observed that Advani has withdrawn those remarks and they would not form part of the records.
Responding to the vociferous protests by Congress, DMK and Trinamool Congress members, Kumar had earlier asked Advani to withdraw his remarks and said she would go through the records and expunge any objectionable or unparliamentary word.
With the din continuing, the Speaker adjourned the House for lunch.
Before the adjournment, the senior BJP leader said he was referring to the alleged cash-for-vote scam that saw BJP MPs displaying wads of cash in the Lok Sabha during debate on the confidence motion, which they claimed was paid to them for voting in favour of the government.
The Treasury benches, including ministers, were on their feet protesting Advani's remarks, with Parliamentary Affairs Minister P K Bansal forcefully pointing out that Advani was digressing from the issue on which he was allowed to speak.
"He has made extraneous remarks which has denigrated the Parliamentary system, the people and democracy," Bansal said.
Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj clarified that Advani had not raised any unrelated issue. She said he was only pointing out the failure of the government on economic and social fronts, including checking infiltration in Assam.
Even after the adjournment, the atmosphere remained surcharged in the House with Gandhi, who is also the UPA Chairperson, seen interacting with MPs and ministers.
The scene in the Opposition benches was also aggressive with some BJP members heard 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.