The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong taunts BJP legal brains

New Delhi, Sept. 17: The Congress today said it had no plans to demand disinvestment minister Arun Shourie’s resignation in the wake of the Supreme Court stalling the sale of Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum, but could not resist a dig at its rival.

Sonia Gandhi’s party asked the BJP to get better legal brains, though it maintained that it did not believe the judgment was a setback to the reforms process.

The main Opposition party said the selloff fiasco has revealed the BJP-led government’s “casual and contemptuous approach” on the issue of divestment of the two oil majors and its “utter contempt” for Parliament. “Some people never learn the lessons of history and keep repeating their errors despite reminders from constitutional authorities,” it said.

The party cited several instances in which, it claimed, the BJP had exceeded the limit. When the chief election commissioner — a constitutional authority — had differed with the Gujarat government on election dates, he was subjected to the vilest abuse, the party said.

The reference was to the tussle last year between the poll panel and the state’s BJP regime, which wanted early polls in the hope of cashing in on a perceived wind in its favour.

The Supreme Court’s backing of the Election Commission regarding the Gujarat elections, the Congress said, had laid to rest all the fancy constitutional theories trotted out by the BJP and its leading lights.

Proceedings in the Best Bakery massacre case have also come as a warning to the BJP, the party claimed, while the HPCL judgment reminded the government of what stared them in the face — a particular section that requires it to remain a government company.

The government simply turned a blind eye to that section, party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said.

It is no use making comments that in India every one has a veto. In this case, the statute had a veto and the court has reminded the government of it, he added.

He disagreed with Shourie’s contention that the apex court verdict was a major setback to reforms. “The judgment is not about disinvestment, but about methodology, procedure and manner,” Singhvi said.

The spokesperson, however, asserted that his party would not ask for Shourie’s resignation. “We do not believe in tokenism or symbolism,” he told reporters, asked if the Congress would like the minister to step down.

Asked whether yesterday’s ruling could result in the retrospective reopening of the conversion of Maruti during the P.V. Narasimha Rao regime, he said that law and facts differed in both the cases. “At the moment, there is no such proposal or demand,” Singhvi said.

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