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Crossfire on Sinha ‘clean’ chit

New Delhi, Dec. 20: Prakash Mani Tripathi, who headed the joint parliamentary committee probe into the stock market scam and the UTI fiasco, today slammed the Opposition for saying that he had given a “clean chit” to Yashwant Sinha.

As Opposition members called for Sinha’s resignation, Tripathi asserted in the Lok Sabha there was “no mention of any clean chit” to the former finance minister at his news conference or in the press release issued yesterday.

“The JPC report was politicised after it was tabled in Parliament yesterday. The Opposition is responsible for turning the report into trash by demanding Sinha’s resignation even before I held a press conference,” he said.

The BJP legislator said there was no other question at the conference other than on Sinha, now the country’s foreign minister. “I kept telling the press that they should go through the 450-page report to draw their own conclusion, but… there was no other question but on Yashwant Sinha, Yashwant Sinha and Yashwant Sinha.”

Tripathi said none of the 30 JPC members had dissented and sought Sinha’s resignation during the 360 hours the panel sat. “There has been no breach of faith,” he asserted and added that if there was any, it was by the Congress MPs.

Tripathi was provoked by Congress MP Mani Shankar Aiyar, who said the words the JPC chairman used were his “own construction” and that he had abused his position as head of the panel.

Seeking suspension of question hour to discuss the report, Aiyar, who served as a member of the committee, said it was shocking that the report was tabled without taking the opinion of the other members. But Speaker Manohar Joshi rejected Congress chief whip Priya Ranjan Das Munshi’s notice for suspension of question hour.

According to Aiyar, the report contained lapses on the part of the finance ministry. Since there could not be a ministry without a minister, Sinha was accountable and should quit, Aiyar said. The CPM’s Rup Chand Pal, another panel member, supported him.

MPs of the ruling National Democratic Alliance objected, wondering how the chair could permit a discussion on a parliamentary report that was unanimous. “The precious time of the House should not be wasted.”

BJP chief whip Vijay Kumar Malhotra said there was no dissent, no explanatory or even classificatory note by any member of the committee.

“They are now raising a hue and cry as they have realised their mistake by not having dissented,” Malhotra said and added that allowing members to raise such issues was setting a “bad precedent” in Parliament.

Congress spokesman S. Jaipal Reddy countered the argument, expressing dismay and regret over the manner in which Tripathi held a press conference to give a clean chit to Sinha.

The issue also figured in the Rajya Sabha, where Congress member Kapil Sibal said the report held the finance ministry accountable and the minister who headed it was directly responsible to Parliament.

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