Saturday, April 28, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Tehelka fallout: N. K. Singh goes
No JPC, says PM * Sonia vents ire on Advani
Tribune News Service And Agencies

New Delhi, April 27
Mr N. K. Singh, Officer on Special Duty in the Prime Minister’s Office, was today shifted to the Planning Commission where he was appointed a Member.

Mr N. K. Singh, who belongs to the 1964 IAS batch, had retired on January 31, but had been retained as OSD in the PMO, where he handled key economic matters.

Of late, the veteran bureaucrat has been under attack from within the Sangh Parivar and other quarters when the Prime Minister’s Office was severely criticised in the wake of the Tehelka expose.

The Planning Commission will have a vacancy following the selection of its Member, Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, as the first Independent Evaluator of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Mr Singh had held key economic posts at the Centre, including Revenue Secretary in the last decade when the country embarked on economic reforms. He was also good in economic diplomacy having held the post of Economic Counsellor in important Indian missions like Tokyo.

However, official sources today said the change — which takes effect from May 1 — was routine as he had been appointed to his present post after retirement “until further orders”.

The names of both Mr N. K. Singh and Principal Secretary and National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra had come into the limelight in connection with the revelations which alleged the involvement of politicians, bureaucrats and also defence officers in defence deals.

Meanwhile, the Tehelka issue resurfaced today in the two Houses just before their sine die adjournment, with Congress members staging a walkout over the government’s refusal to honour its commitment of forming a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe corruption in defence deals.

Parliament, after a shortened and acrimonious Budget session, which could not conduct much business was today adjourned sine die by Speaker G. M. C. Balayogi.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee rejected the Congress demand for a JPC into corruption in defence deals as revealed by

Shortly before both Houses were adjourned, Congress members staged a noisy walkout, accusing the government of backing out on its commitment to set up a JPC.

In his concluding remarks, the Prime Minister said a judicial commission and a parliamentary probe could not go together. He recalled that when the government had expressed its willingness for a JPC, the Opposition had not accepted it.

Without mincing words, the Prime Minister attacked the Opposition for paralysing proceedings in Parliament over the Tehelka expose.

In another development, an angry Sonia Gandhi surprised friends and foes by her sudden outburst in the Lok Sabha on Union Home Minister L. K. Advani, who had customarily walked over to the Opposition Benches to thank them for cooperation during the Budget session after Speaker G. M. C Balayogi had adjourned the house sine die.

Mrs Sonia Gandhi, known for maintaining her cool and who used to speak in Parliament from a prepared text, lost her cool instantly as soon as Mr Advani stood before her with folded hands saying that the BJP-led government was “hypocritical” and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had no right to lecture sermons to them every time.

Mediapersons, who had started walking out of the press gallery, could not believe for a minute that it was her voice as she continued with her outburst saying that the practice of hurling abuses against political leaders was in fact started by the BJP itself.

Mrs Gandhi, who was possibly agitated over Mr Vajpayee’s concluding address in the Lok Sabha wherein he had attacked the Opposition for paralysing Parliament on the Tehelka issue, recalled as how the BJP had gone to the extent of calling her late husband as “chor” (thief) and had used abusive language against her mother-in-law Indira Gandhi and her children.

“Let the Prime Minister correct his own people before hurling abuses on her and her partymen”, she told Mr Advani even as the Home Minister sought to offer some explanation.

As her decibel level went up, journalists started rushing to their seats to have a view of the ongoing spectacle and heard her saying that “for years, they (BJP) have insulted my mother-in-law day in and day out... they had crucified my husband”.

Mrs Gandhi said she had gone out of her way to end the session on a positive note, but Mr Vajpayee, in his closing remarks, had again resorted to attacking her party. “For the sake of democracy, I did not speak up”, she told Mr Advani.

As Congress MPs came closer to her seat, Mrs Gandhi, while raising her voice, said, “After doing all this, you have the cheek to say that you never did anything.

Is it right?”

The Congress President recalled that at the end of the winter session too, the Prime Minister had indulged in such an attack on the Congress during his concluding address, which had led to adjournment of the Lok Sabha on a bitter note.

Even before Mrs Gandhi’s outburst, deputy leader of the Congress Madhavrao Scindia and some other senior party leaders were heard expressing displeasure with Mr Advani over the way the session had ended.

Her main objection was to the Prime Minister’s remarks hitting out at the Opposition for disrupting Parliament and using abusive language against him, which Mr Vajpayee had contended that he had not seen in his Parliamentary career of over four decades.

Even after the battle of words between Mrs Gandhi and Mr Advani had ended, Mr Scindia, coming out of the Lok Sabha, said the Prime Minister had no right to lecture them.”We are tired of hearing these sermons”, he said, adding that Mr Vajpayee has obviously forgotten the kind of abuses that were hurled on late Rajiv Gandhi when the BJP led by him was in the Opposition.

On the BJP’s charge of holding the Congress responsible for stalling Parliament, Mr Scindia listed out non-Congress parties’ role in the past of paralysing Parliament.

Primarily, it is the responsibility of the ruling party to ensure smooth functioning of Parliament, Mr Scindia pointed out, saying that the Prime Minister’s concluding speech had spoiled the atmosphere.

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