The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong MP in George gaffe

New Delhi, Dec. 4: The Congress was embarrassed in the Rajya Sabha today when one of its members, Vijay Darda, flouted party norms to ask defence minister George Fernandes questions on the high rate of air force aircraft crashes and the National Cadet Corps (NCC).

The Congress refuses to recognise Fernandes’ reinstatement as Union defence minister in both Houses of Parliament. The main Opposition party has refused to raise any defence-related questions in protest against Fernandes’ return to the Cabinet.

Fernandes resigned following allegations of corruption levelled against him in a sting operation carried out by the investigative website, Tehelka. The NDA government brought him back despite protests from the Opposition.

Senior Congress member in the Upper House, Eduardo Faleiro, admitted that Darda’s questions had “embarrassed the party” but added that the Congress’ attitude towards Fernandes remains unchanged. “It’s a mistake on the part of the member,” he said.

“This is our consistent displeasure. We don’t recognise him. He resigned for good. But, how can he come back without being absolved of the serious charges levelled against him by Tehelka'” Faleiro asked.

Darda, the editor-owner of a regional daily in Maharashtra, asked the defence minister a starred question on increasing Indian Air Force aircraft crashes, including MIGs.

He wanted the ministry’s reply on the “reasons for this state of affairs” and the recommendations of various committees formed to probe the causes behind these accidents.

The Congress MP asked a supplementary query on a separate starred question on steps the defence ministry had taken to promote NCC among students, observing that the number of cadets have increased from 11 to 13 lakh.

BJP leaders say there is confusion among Congress MPs over their stand on Fernandes, as some members have been allegedly asking defence-related questions in Rajya Sabha since the last session.

However, the Congress stuck to its stand in Lok Sabha even though Speaker Manohar Joshi convened a meeting to break the impasse. The party was adamant on its displeasure over Fernandes’ return.

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