In an escalation of confrontation, BJP today decided to boycott meetings to be convened by the Parliamentary Affairs Minister and the Lok Sabha Speaker as it accused Congress President Sonia Gandhi of not allowing opposition to air their views in Parliament.
The BJP decision announced by Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj was ridiculed Congress as one to find excuses to disrupt Parliament.
The escalation comes at a time when the BJP has been stalling Parliament for the last seven days by demanding resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Law Minister Ashwani Kumar over the coal block allocation issue.
Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj accused Congress President Sonia Gandhi of not allowing opposition to air their views in Parliament and said there is a "situation of total breakdown" in the ties for which the government is "responsible".
Forced to cut short her speech in Lok Sabha due to interruptions when the Finance Bill was being taken up this morning, Swaraj said she could not speak because Gandhi "instigated" ministers to create disturbances.
Addressing a press conference, she said Speaker Meira Kumar did not give her "protection" by allowing enough time or checking the ruling party members from creating disturbances.
Swaraj, while speaking in Lok Sabha on why BJP is demanding the Prime Minister's resignation and stalling the House on coal issue, described the UPA government as the "most corrupt", triggering an uproar.
She said as a protest to such a behaviour, BJP will not attend any meeting called by the Speaker or participate in any talks held by the Parliamentary Affairs Minister.
This stand will continue till there is any improvement in the situation, she said.
At the same time, she said BJP will will not move no-confidence motion against the government.
Rejecting Swaraj's allegations against Gandhi as "completely untrue", Congress spokesperson Renuka Chowdhary said it was an "excuse to disrupt Parliament".
Chowdhary recalled that it was the same Swaraj who had threatened that she will get her head shaved if Sonia Gandhi became Prime Minister in 2004 Lok Sabha.
Swaraj said the decision was arrived at the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) that she would speak on the issue of coal blocks allocation and BJP would allow passage of the Finance Bill today to prevent it from lapsing.
"Whatever is decided in BAC is not implemented, but whatever Sonia Gandhi decides takes place," she said.
"I had just started my speech when the Congress President became active and gestured to the UPA ministers. She instigated them and the ministers started interrupting me. At this point I thought the Chair will give me protection and tell the ministers to stop but the Speaker only kept telling me to wind up my speech," the BJP leader said.
"I am making this allegation with full responsibility that the Congress President and UPA Chairperson has no respect for the Indian democratic process," said Swaraj, who has an old political rivalry with Gandhi.
Replying to questions, she said "the countdown for this government has begun."
Hitting back at Swaraj, Chowdhary said "Democracy does not function in this manner. If you are looking for excuses to disrupt Parliament, you should find out some other excuses."
The Congress spokesperson said if Swaraj does not want the meetings called by even Meira Kumar, this amounts to casting aspersions on the honourable Speaker.
"If she had decided to boycott the meetings of Speaker, then it's an individual choice that she has made," she said.
Questioning how the BJP leader could know what Gandhi told the ministers, Chowdhary said it was "very unfortunate" that the "unfair", "completely untrue" and "uncharitable" allegation was levelled by a senior leader like Swaraj, whom Congress holds in "high esteem".
"And we cannot forget the history of such prejudices in past....Should we remind them it was the Sushma Swaraj, who had in past said that she will get her head shaved if Gandhi became Prime Minister," Chowdhary said.