M A I N   N E W S

Natwar resigns
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 6
Minister without portfolio K. Natwar Singh tonight announced his resignation from the Union Cabinet, saying that he did not want to be an excuse for the Opposition to stall Parliament.

Mr Natwar Singh, who had met Congress President Sonia Gandhi in the afternoon today for the second time in less than 24 hours, announced his resignation in a brief statement to reporters outside his residence.

Maintaining that he was “completely innocent” and no charges have been framed or brought against him following the Volcker Committee report, Mr Natwar Singh said Parliament and the Congress were above individuals.

“I do not wish to be the excuse for the Opposition to stall the functioning of Parliament. Hence, I have decided to resign from the Union Cabinet despite the fact that I have not violated any law in letter or spirit,” he said.

He declined to answer a question whether he has already sent his resignation.

He said Parliament continued to be stalled and important legislative business having a significant bearing on India’s future and welfare of the people was being held up.

Not impressed by the Congress statement last night that Mr Natwar Singh would resign after the return of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from Moscow on Wednesday, the BJP-led Opposition stalled proceedings in Parliament today also. They demanded resignation of Mr Natwar Singh as also of Mrs Gandhi as Chairperson of the National Advisory Council.

Sources said senior BJP leaders had conveyed to the government that the Opposition would cooperate in the functioning of Parliament provided the minister resigned.

Mr Natwar Singh had met Mrs Gandhi last night and it was announced that the minister without portfolio would resign after the return of the Prime Minister from Moscow. Mr Natwar Singh had earlier been removed from the Congress Steering Committee.

The Congress today maintained that Mr Natwar Singh had taken the decision to quit on his own.

Answering questions, Congress spokesman Anand Sharma denied that Mr Natwar Singh had been made a scapegoat in the Volcker controversy. “There is no question of his being a political scapegoat. He had taken the decision on his own to save any further embarrassment in view of the malicious campaign of the BJP,” Mr Sharma said.

He said Mr Natwar Singh’s offer to step down was by no means an admission of guilt. “Probe is on and a verdict is awaited. We must not pre-judge,” he said.

Mr Sharma outrightly rejected Opposition’s demand for the resignation of Mrs Gandhi as Chairperson of the National Advisory Committee in the wake of the controversy, terming it as “mischievous and motivated”.

“She is an elected president of the party and has trust of millions of countrymen,” he said.

Mr Sharma attacked the BJP-led opposition for continuous disruption of Parliament, saying that they are raking up the Volcker issue to divert the attention of people from their internal bickerings.

He said rather Mr L. K. Advani should quit the public office of Leader of the Opposition as he had been chargesheeted in the Babri Masjid demolition case.

“It was Mr Advani against whom charges had been framed, not Mrs Gandhi,” he said.

“Instead of disrupting Parliament as part of a diabolic political agenda, the BJP should wait for the verdict of the probe,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Natwar Singh’s son, Jagat Singh, who is in the eye of a storm following disclosures in an “interview” by erstwhile Indian Ambassador to Croatia Aneil Matherani, said “injustice” had been meted out to his father by demanding his resignation.

Referring to statements made by some Congress leaders yesterday on the Volcker issue, he said there were some leaders in the AICC who had no understanding about politics and did not know how to run the party. 



Opposition targets Sonia
Both Houses adjourned
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 6
With Mr Natwar Singh, now almost certain to resign from the Union Cabinet, the Opposition targeted the National Advisory Council head and Congress chief, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, and disrupted proceedings in both Houses of Parliament today.

Even as the furore continued, the Lok Sabha passed two Bills and an important legislation on amending the tax law was introduced.

Raising slogans like “Congress is corrupt”, “Sonia is corrupt”, and “UPA ka dekho khel, kha gaye chara, pee gaye tel,” Opposition MPs demanded Mrs Gandhi to step down as chairperson of the council that advises the government.

The NDA-led Opposition stalled proceedings in Parliament on the Volcker issue for the fourth consecutive day. After witnessing noisy scenes, both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha, which were adjourned briefly during the day, was adjourned for the day with the Opposition continuing to disrupt the proceedings.

Amid the din, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee managed to pass two bills - Prevention of Insults to National Honour (Amendment) Bill, 2005 and the State Emblem of India (Prohibition of Improper Use) Bill, 2004. The Bills, piloted by Minister of State for Home Manikrao Gavit, were passed without any discussion.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram managed to table a Bill on amending tax laws before MPs from both sides stormed the Speaker’s podium, forcing Mr Chatterjee to adjourn the House.

Similar scenes were witnessed in the Rajya Sabha leading to its adjournment first till noon. When the House reassembled, it was adjourned for the day after the tabling of listed papers and introduction of Bills to amend Chartered Accountants, Cost Accountants and Company Secretaries Acts. The Bills were introduced amid din after the withdrawal of three Bills introduced in 2003 to amend these Acts.

The MPs from the Left parties in the Lok Sabha pointed out that today was the 13th anniversary of the Babri mosque’s razing. Congress MPs as well as those from the UPA allies and the Left parties demanded the resignation of BJP president L.K. Advani.

As the MPs from both sides swarmed near the Speaker’s chair, Mr Chidambaram and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi attempted to push them back.

Rajya Sabha chair Bhairon Singh Shekhawat initially adjourned the upper house for an hour after Opposition MPs disrupted proceedings on the oil-for-food scam and then for the rest of the day as the ruckus continued.



Disruptions by Oppn not good: Dasmunsi
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 6
With the BJP-led Opposition not softening its stand on the Volcker issue yet, the government today said continuous disruption of the two Houses was “detrimental to the honour of Parliament and interest of people.”

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi said here the government had conveyed to the Opposition its willingness to discuss the Volcker issue through any motion decided by the Chair. He said that the NDA leaders today conveyed that unless Union Minister, Mr Natwar Singh’s resignation was announced in both Houses, it was difficult to cooperate with the government in getting through its business.

He said besides the floods in Tamil Nadu, issues like internal security could not be discussed due to disruptions by the Opposition.

Comparing the UPA government’s response to the Volcker controversy with the NDA government’s handling of Tehelka expose, he said that despite several days of protest, the previous government did not agree to Opposition demands for a motion on Tehelka on the plea that an inquiry was being held.

He said former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee did not respond in Parliament on the Tehelka issue whereas Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had made statements in the two Houses following the interview of erstwhile Ambassador to Croatia Aniel Matherani.

He said when Congress was in Opposition, it protested over reinduction of Mr George Fernandes as Defence Minister by walking out quietly.


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