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MPLADS scam rocks Parliament
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 20
Members of both Houses of Parliament seemed stunned today by another scandal exposed by a TV channel showing the MPs taking bribe for handing over project work under the MP Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS).

Expressing anguish over the “misconduct” of certain MPs involved in MPLADS scam exposed in quick succession after the money-for-query scam, the Presiding Officers of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, referred to the already constituted Special Committee and the Ethics Committee, respectively, for in-depth probe.

After consulting leaders of political parties, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee ordered an inquiry into the MPLAD scam, as exposed by a news channel, and urged the five members allegedly involved not to attend the House till their names were cleared.

The seven-member committee, comprising Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal (Chairman) (Congress), Prof Vijay Kumar Malhotra (BJP), Mr Mohammad Salim (CPI-M), Prof Ramgopal Yadav (Samajwadi Party), Mr C Kuppusami (DMK), Mr Prasanna Acharya (BJD) and Mr Devendra Prasad Yadav (RJD), has been asked to submit its report to the Speaker by January 31, 2006.

The members against whom the inquiry has been instituted are Alemao Churchill (Cong), Faggan Singh Kulaste (BJP), Ram Swaroop Koli (BJP), Chandra Pratap Singh (BJP) and Parasnath Yadav (SP).

In the Rajya Sabha, Chairman Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, said the Ethics Committee of the House would go into the fresh scandal exposed by a television channel.

In his observations, Mr Shekhawat said two members of the Upper House had been named in the expose and what was shown by the private TV channel had lowered the prestige of the House.

“All of us are highly anguished and without any doubt it is a matter of concern,” he said and recalled that recently he had referred a similar issue to the Ethics Committee.

Rajya Sabha members Sakshi Maharaj (Rashtriya Kranti Dal) and Isam Singh (BSP) were were named by the STAR TV channel in the MPLADS expose code-named “Operation Chakravyuha”.

While referring the latest expose to the Committee, the Chairman hoped the matter would be inquired in-depth by the panel which would give its recommendations as early as possible for necessary action.

A number of members including S S Alhuwalia (BJP), Nilotpal Basu (CPI-M), Murli Manohar Joshi (BJP), N K Premachandran (RSP), Ramdeo Bhandary (RJD) and C Ramachandraiah (TDP) favoured scrapping of the MPLAD scheme in the wake of the expose.

Mr Basu said an all-party meeting be convened to discuss the issue. However, some Congress members wanted continuation of the scheme.

In the Lok Sabha, the Speaker was “at legs to calm down the members” when some of them demanded even the scraping of the scheme. “Don’t tarnish the name of the House further,’’ the Speaker said and urged them not to disrupt the Question Hour.

“Don’t you feel ashamed today,” he retorted when an RJD member said “Parliament badnaam ho rahi hai (The House was losing its dignity).”

“Don’t try to lower the prestige of this House, when it is under attack from every side.” he observed.

Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) along with some MPs of NDA, demanded scrapping of the scheme.

Mr Chatterjee said it was a matter of shame that this had happened while an inquiry was already on to look into the bribe-for-question scandal.

The Speaker asked the five members to make their statements in the matter and urged them ‘’not to attend the Session of the House until the matter is looked into and a decision is taken’’.

After the Question Hour, the Lok Sabha looked divided on the issue of scrapping the MPLAD scheme in the wake of the fresh scam amid calls by members that Parliament should not be led by media expose.

Demand by RJD members Devendra Prasad Yadav and Ram Kripal Yadav to do away with the MP Local Area Development scheme was not appreciated by several members of the main Opposition BJP as also some from the ruling Congress.

Raising the issue during zero hour, Devendra Prasad Yadav said since the scheme had brought a lot of bad name to MPs and the scam proved to be a blot on Parliament, it should be ended.

Ram Kripal wanted the House to take a decision today itself in the matter which prompted several members from the Opposition and some from Congress to be on their feet protesting against any such move.

At this hour, an MP was heard saying: “Question Hour should also be scrapped by this logic,” while referring to the money for query scam exposed by another TV channel recently.

Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI) said it was for the government to decide whether to continue or to close the scheme. He said what was needed now was a “serious monitoring system” as “most of us are going through a deep agonising ordeal ....to look at TV sets”.


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