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Buta booms louder than Bofors

New Delhi, Feb. 5: Bofors spit fire briefly and Buta Singh boomed as the 13th Lok Sabha hosted its last bout and the principal spearheads trooped out for the big battle ahead after a perfunctory farewell gesture.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Opposition leader Sonia Gandhi left the House without making speeches or wishing each other. But both leaders bid goodbye to the MPs with a namaste aimed at all.

The Prime Minister later met the President with whom the cabinet recommendation for dissolving the Lok Sabha tomorrow is lying.

Before the Lok Sabha was adjourned sine die, Speaker Manohar Joshi tried to strike an optimistic note by saying: “Let us hope to meet again in the new House as well.” However, the mood remained grim, heightened by a showdown a few hours ago.

The Congress threatened to blow the lid off a House panel report that allegedly indicts the finance ministry for levying less duty on a company.

A trading company owned by a man whose father had brought out a booklet giving a clean chit to George Fernandes in defence deals was named the beneficiary of the alleged favour — extended through incorrect classification of goods.

Titbits of the report were disclosed outside the House by a miffed Buta Singh, the Congress veteran who heads the Public Accounts Committee, after he was not allowed to submit it in the Lok Sabha.

The amount involved, Rs 16 crore, is not big compared with that of the other scams dogging the government. But the controversy broke when Buta Singh said the report — not listed in the day’s business — had been “unanimously” finalised.

NDA members in the panel challenged this contention and a war of words followed. Congress chief whip Priya Ranjan Das Munshi then threatened to “disclose the contents of the report to the nation, if the PAC chairman is not allowed to table it in the House”. Speaker Manohar Joshi later said the new House can take up the issue.

The Congress raised the Bofors case clean chit to Rajiv Gandhi, demanding an apology from the government. Members disrupted proceedings in the Rajya Sabha after law minister Arun Jaitley said the CBI could consider moving a “higher” court.

“You don’t expect any grace from these people. At least I don’t,” Sonia Gandhi told reporters, responding to Jaitley’s comment.

But V.P. Singh, who had fallen foul of Rajiv Gandhi over Bofors, said: “I feel light in my heart because it doesn’t gladden any citizen’s heart that blemishes come on the country’s Prime Minister.”

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