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George splits ranks on arms report

New Delhi, Aug. 8: The Opposition paralysed Parliament for the second day over the Kargil arms report not being placed before the Public Accounts Committee. But George Fernandes managed to get eight of the 13 NDA members in the committee to send a letter to the Speaker disassociating themselves with the PAC report on the matter.

Both Houses will meet on Wednesday after a four-day break for Raksha Bandhan, which is on Tuesday.

The defence minister’s counter offensive began as the Opposition reiterated its demand for a discussion, a reply by the Prime Minister, placing verbatim records of all PAC meetings on the table of the House as well as the CVC report pertaining to arms purchases during Kargil.

Political circles see the signature campaign as a desperate bid to shift the focus from Fernandes to PAC chairman Buta Singh, who belongs to the Congress. Singh has time and again insisted that his report has been “unanimous”.

BJP chief whip in the Lok Sabha Vijay Malhotra confirmed that eight of the NDA members have already written to the Speaker claiming they were not party to the final report. Efforts are on to get the signatures of the others.

The 22-member PAC has five members from the BJP, two from the Desam and one each from the Shiv Sena, the Biju Janata Dal, the Trinamul Congress, the DMK, the Samata Party and the ADMK. The remaining nine members are from the Opposition, including five from the Congress and two each from the CPM and the Samajwadi Party.

After two days of disruptions, the BJP appeared willing to partially meet the Opposition demands. It demanded that all documents, including the minutes of the meeting of the PAC, be tabled in the House. In 1966, a PAC report was discussed in the House on a minister’s statement, spokesperson Malhotra said.

Malhotra dubbed the attitude of the Opposition “reprehensible” and said its demand that the Prime Minister reply to a debate was “unacceptable”.

He said Fernandes was ready to make a statement in Parliament but the Opposition refused to bend. Fernandes had given a notice to the Speaker and the Rajya Sabha chairman that he be allowed to make statements in both Houses under PAC rules.

Malhotra said “we request the Speaker and chairman to allow him to make a statement and thereafter we can have a discussion”.

Earlier in the day, an unrelenting Opposition forced both Houses to adjourn amid vociferous anti-government slogans.

While the Rajya Sabha was adjourned for the day within 30 minutes of the morning session, Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi called it a day as the Opposition kept up the pressure after the smooth passage of two Constitution amendment bills.

Despite the Speaker urging that a special discussion on Dalit atrocities be taken up as it had been postponed twice, the Congress members stormed the well shouting “PAC lachar hain, ghotala ki sarkar hain (PAC is helpless, it is a government of scams)”.

Congress complaint

Congress MP Ramesh Chennithala has written to the Speaker asking for a privilege motion against Malhotra for casting “reflections” on the 54th report of the Public Accounts Committee, reports our special correspondent.

Malhotra, he wrote, had committed a breach of privilege of the House by dubbing a parliamentary panel report false and stating it was not unanimous. “As a matter of fact, the report was unanimously adopted by the PAC and no note of dissent was attached thereto,” Chennithala wrote. The Speaker is yet to decide on the matter.

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