Thursday, August 2, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

No PMO role in UTI muddle: Vajpayee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 1
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today denied the alleged involvement of his office in influencing the decision of the Unit Trust of India to buy shares of certain companies. Offering a brief explanation in the Rajya Sabha today, Mr Vajpayee said that as far as UTI was concerned, an inquiry could be ordered, if needed.

Mr Vajpayee made the statement before the Finance Minister’s reply on the short duration discussion in the House.

He said that although he had offered to resign at the BJP Parliamentary Party meeting yesterday, his party had rejected the idea. He said that the National Democratic Alliance at a meeting this morning also urged him to continue to lead the alliance.

For the second consecutive day, Mr Yashwant Sinha failed in his repeated attempts to offer an explanation on the UTI but he could not be heard in the din.

The Congress and the Left parties objected to Mr Sinha’s remarks on investments of Rs 386 crore made by the UTI in 285 companies between 1964 and 1995. While Nilotpal Basu (CPM) and Abani Roy (RSP) questioned the veracity of his statement, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Manmohan Singh wanted to present the facts. Congress members then requested the Chair to allow Mr Manmohan Singh to speak.

When the Rajya Sabha Chairman, Mr Krishan Kant asked the Finance Minister if he would yield to the Congress members’ demand to speak, Mr Sinha said he would like to complete his reply before answering the queries of the Opposition.

Mr Sinha resisted any intervention by the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and his predecessor, Dr Manmohan Singh who had been identified by the Chair to speak.

This was resented by the Congress benches along with some of the Left members. Congress member Suresh Pachouri drew the attention of the Chair to Section 256 of the Rule Book which clearly says that a member identified by the Chair be allowed to speak. His party colleagues Ambika Soni and Oscar Fernandes also protested against the Finance Minister’s deviation from the rules.

The acrimonious scenes compelled the Chairman, Mr Krishan Kant to adjourn the House till Thursday forenoon.

Soon after the question hour, a determined Opposition pilloried the ruling party on the issue of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s offer to quit and forced adjournment of the House till 2 p.m. demanding vociferously a statement from Mr Vajpayee on the issue on the floor of the House.

Charging the government with “committing impropriety” by announcing the quit offer outside Parliament yesterday, Congress members, led by Leader of the Opposition Manmohan Singh, demanded that Mr Vajpayee make an immediate statement in the House on this important issue before it takes up any other business including Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha’s inconclusive reply on the UTI muddle.

The House was thrown into turmoil soon after question hour as Manmohan Singh made his submission with both ruling and opposition members trading charges which were inaudible in the din.

Amidst surcharged atmosphere, Congress member Suresh Pachouri moved a privilege notice against Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan for going to the press with a statement on the Prime Minister’s offer in violation of the dignity of the House.

Chairman Krishan Kant said he was looking into the notice after Mr Mahajan sought to justify his action saying he had not committed any impropriety as he had gone to the press in his capacity as Chief Whip of the BJP party and not as Parliamentary Affairs Minister.

After half-an-hour of acrimony, the House, adjourned for 10 minutes and then re-assembled only to be adjourned till 2 p.m.Back

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