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Shotgun shows up, but gets facts wrong

New Delhi, Nov. 25: Union health and family welfare minister Shatrughan Sinha finally turned up in Parliament today to answer questions regarding his ministry but fumbled on his facts and was sniggered at by his colleagues.

A list of questions — raging from AIDS to the sale of kidneys — awaited Sinha’s response during question hour. But the health minister seemed unprepared to answer them accurately.

By the time he had reached the second or the third question on his agenda, Sinha kept referring to “290 centres and 180 centres” instead of saying 290 equipment in 180 centres.

Fellow MPs of the Upper House started sniggering when the minister just could not get it right, prompting Rajya Sabha chairperson Bhairon Singh Shekhawat to finally intervene on Sinha’s behalf. “Please take your time,” Shekhawat told the minister. “But get the facts right.”

Luckily for Sinha, what finally rescued him was his ability to play to the gallery. When an MP who had asked a question began showing signs of impatience, the health minister had a line for him. “I have waited so long for you. It’s now your turn,” Sinha said, turning a potentially embarrassing situation to his advantage by playing the role of a jester.

The minister then started shuffling files and rummaging through papers on his table, saying: “The last time I had seen so may slips of paper was when I was taking an exam.”

Parliament today sighed with relief when Sinha finally showed up, having missed the first three days of the winter session even though there were questions awaiting his reply.

Sinha was on a tour of the US, disregarding the advice of his colleagues and friends, while minister of state for health and family welfare A. Raja answered questions in his place.

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