M A I N   N E W S

RS members come close to blows
Jogi episode rocks Parliament
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 8
The Ajit Jogi tape controversy today rocked Parliament resulting in nearly two hours’ adjournment of both Houses.

The tempers ran high in the Rajya Sabha where the BJP and Congress members nearly came to blows in the pre-lunch session, leading to an unqualified apology by senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherji to Chairman Bhairon Singh in the afternoon.

The trouble began in both Houses soon after the question hour ended as BJP members trained their guns on Congress President Sonia Gandhi, demanding an explanation from her whether she had backed the former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister in his attempts to engineer defections among the newly elected BJP legislators.

In another development, Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi announced that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee would make a statement in the Lok Sabha tomorrow on the cash-on-camera scam allegedly involving Chhattisgarh BJP leader Dilip Singh Judeo. It was Congress Chief Whip P R Dasmunshi who raised the Judeo issue. The Speaker said the Congress notice for an adjournment motion on the Judeo issue was under his consideration.

In the Rajya Sabha, tempers ran high on the Jogi issue leading to senior Congress leader apologising to Chairman Bhairon Singh Shekhawat on behalf of his party members.

Soon after question hour, BJP member S S Ahluwalia, demanded an explanation from the Leader of the Opposition Manmohan Singh about Mr Jogi’s alleged attempt to split BJP Legislature Party in Chhattisgarh to help form a non-BJP government in the state.

Several Congress members, including Mr Suresh Pachouri, Mr Kapil Sibal and Mr H R Bhardwaj, sought to counter Mr Ahluwalia. The Congress refused to allow Mr Ahluwalia to raise the issue contending that he could not do so as the matter concerned a state.

Deputy Chairman Najma Heptulla informed the Congress members, without any visible result, that Mr Ahluwalia had been granted permission to raise the matter. But the Congress members refused to budge. When her repeated attempts to restore order in the House failed, Ms Heptulla adjourned it till 2 pm.

As soon as the House assembled at 2 pm, Mr Mukherji said that as a senior member “I would like to apologise to the Chair”.

In the Lok Sabha, the Jogi issue was raised by Mr Madan Lal Khurana and Mr Vijay Kumar Malhotra (both BJP) soon after the question hour ended. They demanded Ms Sonia Gandhi’s presence in the House as well as a statement from her on the Jogi episode. Congress members protested to this loudly.

Mr Kirit Somaiyya (BJP) had given a notice for breach of privilege against Ms Gandhi, describing the Jogi episode to break the Chhattisgarh BJP Legislature as the “most shameful” episode in India’s five decades of democracy.

Mr Khurana alleged that Ms Gandhi was “as much responsible” in the entire episode as Mr Jogi under the law. The BJP’s Chief Whip, Mr Malhotra, said his party would not allow the House to function till the Leader of the Opposition came before it and gave her explanation. He said as no Congress Chief Minister could dare to “sneeze” without the permission of the party President and asked how Mr Jogi could have attempted this operation without her nod.

Mr Malhotra and Mr Khurana said Mr Jogi could not have pledged the support of the 37 Congress MLAs in Chhattisgarh to another party without consulting Ms Gandhi. They argued that if the Congress party was not involved in the attempt to break the BJP Legislature Party, why did that party appoint a four-member committee to go into the episode.

Mr S Jaipal Reddy (Congress) said the BJP’s “sting operation” was within the knowledge of Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani and that Law Minister Arun Jaitley was “a party to it”.

Sensing the mood of the slogan-shouting members, the Speaker adjourned the lower House till 2 pm.

The Speaker also rejected several notices of Opposition-sponsored adjournment motions, including those on the alleged “milking” of PSUs by Union Ministers, the Dilip Singh Judeo cash-on-camera scam and muzzling of media by the Tamil Nadu Government. The other notices for adjournment motion on non-payment of remunerative prices to farmers and corruption in government were also disallowed by the Speaker. 

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