Tuesday, March 20, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

PM’s men plead not guilty
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 19
In an unprecedented move, the top officials in the Prime Minister’s Office, Mr Brajesh Mishra and Mr N.K. Singh, today pleaded not guilty to the charges levelled against them in the secret tapes of tehelka.com.

Virtually ruling out their resignations, unless asked by the Prime Minister, the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Mr Mishra, said the charge against them that they were acting as “extra constitutional authority” was baseless.

When asked if he had offered to resign, Mr Mishra replied in the negative. When mediapersons drew a parallel between his case and that of the Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, Mr Mishra said: “I will also resign if it helps the Prime Minister”.

On the role of the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee’s foster son-in-law, Mr Ranjan Bhattacharya in the affairs of the PMO, Mr Mishra said he did not work in the PMO. “In my house my family lives. Is that extra-constitutional?”, he asked.

Reacting to the allegations levelled in the video tape against the PMO in relation to purchases by the Defence Ministry for the armed forces, Mr Misra made three points in his defence:

— For the past three years I have been Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister and for two years and five months the National Security Adviser. On no occasion has the PM spoken to me about defence purchases.

— Mr Bangaru Laxman (former President of the BJP) has never spoken to me about any defence deal or about funding his political party with my help or that of PMO.

— I do not know Mr R.K. Gupta or his son and have not had any contact with them.

Mr Mishra said he had to give his clarification to the Press as all efforts by the government to state its position in Parliament had failed.

“Media ethics demand that before allegations against a person are made public he or she is given a chance to rebut them. It is regrettable that in the present case ethical values were not observed”, he said.

Mr Mishra said contrary to what was reported about Mr Bangaru Laxman’s links with him, the former BJP President in his resignation letter had clearly stated that he did not talk about defence purchases to the Prime Minister or his Principal Secretary.

On allegations that the PMO was acting as a superbody, bypassing all ministries, Mr Mishra said it was not correct. He clarified that on many occasions that ministries themselves approached the PMO to solve their problems and only in such case were they involved.

To a question on whether he would retain the dual posts of Principal Secretary and the National Security Adviser, Mr Mishra said that was for the Prime Minister to decide.

Mr N.K. Singh said the Cabinet was the ultimate authority which took all the major decisions and the PMO could not bypass it.

Apart from his personal explanation, the Prime Minister’s officials also gave a detailed five-page explanation in various charges that has been levelled against them.

The clarifications dealt with the controversial move to increase the FDI cap on the telecom sector, on the issue of the policy governing migration of existing private telecom licences from a fixed licence fee regime to a revenue sharing arrangement, the Hirma power project in Orissa, the National Highways Development Project and the Vizag electricity project.

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