Thursday, August 8, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

BJP takes wind out of Cong attack
Says Manmohan, JS Brar also recommended allotments
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 7
In a move to wrest the initiative from the Congress on the petrol station issue, the BJP today challenged Leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi to surrender petrol stations and gas agencies allotted to Congress leaders and their relatives in the past 50 years.

Aggressively defending the Vajpayee government, BJP spokesman V.K. Malhotra said the Opposition, particularly the Congress, was wasting the time of Parliament by obstructing the two Houses’ business, which was meant for the good of the people and the country.

Terming the Congress and other Opposition parties’ role in Parliament as “highly objectionable”, Mr Malhotra said the issue should have been over after Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s directive to cancel all allotments since 2000. However, the Opposition parties particularly the Congress, were throttling democracy by wasting the valuable time of Parliament, which was slated for important discussions on very significant issues, including national security, he said.

Meanwhile, Union Rural Development Minister Shanta Kumar has hailed Mr Vajpayee’s decision to cancel allotments of petrol stations, saying that the decision goes to prove that the BJP is a “party with a difference”.

Describing Petroleum Minister Ram Naik as an effective minister who had a clean image, Mr Shanta Kumar said the controversy raised on the allotments was not Mr Naik’s failure but the failure of the system.

Mr Malhotra also released a list of 29 leaders of the Congress and other parties, including the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Dr Manmohan Singh, who had given written recommendations to Mr Naik for the allotment of petrol stations and gas agencies.

Other notable names in the list include vice-presidential candidate Sushil Kumar Shinde, AICC treasurer Moti Lal Vora, AICC general secretary Oscar Fernandes, Congress MPs Jagmeet Singh Brar, Margaret Alva, Begum Noor Bano, Suresh Kalmadi, Santosh Mohan Dev and Samajwadi Party MP Raj Babbar.

Meanwhile, BJP MPs have also initiated a signature campaign urging Mr Vajpayee to order an inquiry into all allotments of petrol stations and gas agencies made since 1983 and cancel every dealership to a relative of a political personality.

A draft letter to Mr Vajpayee, circulated among MPs of the ruling coalition for signature, said: “We urge upon you to order an inquiry into all allotments made under the Dealership Selection Board (DSB) system from 1983 and cancel every dealership allotted to a relative of any sitting or former MP/MLA or party functionary.”

Already, over 50 MPs are understood to have signed, sources said, adding that it would be soon handed over to Mr Vajpayee.

The move is in response to the Opposition’s attack on the government on favouritism shown to BJP functionaries and others in the allotment of over 3,000 petrol stations and gas agencies since January, 2000, which the Prime Minister has directed to be cancelled.

Meanwhile, Petroleum Ministry sources said a large number of dealerships were allotted to relatives of various Congress functionaries during 1990-95.

Lauding the Prime Minister’s decision to cancel all petrol stations, LPG agencies and kerosene dealerships allotted since January, 2000, the MPs wrote: “Even though all procedures had been followed, there are allegations that several party functionaries and leaders have obtained dealerships by exercising influence on the Dealer Selection Boards though there is nothing to indicate any such influence.”

They pointed out that the cancellation of over 3,000 allotments would lead to severe financial hardships and loss of business for many “innocent” persons who had been selected by duly constituted DSBs in a fair manner.

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