The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Letter bomb on ‘biased’ Bhairon

New Delhi, Aug. 14: Opposition leaders in the Rajya Sabha have written an exceptionally strong letter to House chairman Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, accusing him of playing a partisan and pro-active political role in the conduct of proceedings.

The letter, signed by leader of the Opposition in the House Manmohan Singh and eight others, was sent to Shekhawat today.

The unprecedented move came in the immediate backdrop of the Opposition’s decision to boycott proceedings for the rest of the session.

The boycott is to protest the government’s refusal to part with a Central Vigilance Commission report on defence purchases to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.

The letter began by reminding Shekhawat that the chair could not get involved in the “thicket of politics” since it is above politics.

“Any pro-active posture that has the tendency to involve the chair in purely political matters has always been avoided,” it said.

The leaders said the Vice-President acted in a partisan manner regarding the Opposition’s boycott of George Fernandes. “By declaring that the defence minister will reply to the debate, you did what the government was required to state in the floor of the House…,” the letter said. Shekhawat had said he would allow a discussion provided Fernandes replies.

The leaders took exception to Shekhawat’s observation on the PAC/CVC issue. In his ruling yesterday, Shekhawat said the CVC probe did not cover armaments bought during the 1999 Kargil conflict.

“As such consideration of this matter by the PAC at this stage does not appear complete. A discussion on this matter in the House would, therefore, not be appropriate,” he had said.

In their letter, the Opposition leaders said: “Whether or not the PAC had raised appropriate queries seeking a report of the CVC in relation to Operation Vijay, is also a matter to be responded to by the government alone.”

They objected to Shekhawat’s reference in the House to deliberations of the House business advisory committee meeting in his chamber, saying: “The proceedings of the BAC on informal consultations in (the) chairman’s chamber are normally not matters of debate in the House”.

The leaders also took exception to Shekhawat’s observation, during his ruling, on the functioning of the PAC. “(The) PAC is essentially a committee of the Lok Sabha…,” they said, pointing out that his observation “is likely to be interpreted as interference with the functioning of the Lok Sabha”.

The leaders hoped that the chairman would in future uphold his role as the guardian of the House and not be partisan.

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