| L.K. Advani marches towards Rashtrapati Bhavan along with Jaswant Singh (left) and other National Democratic Alliance MPs. (Reuters)
New Delhi, June 3: Around 150 MPs of the National Democratic Alliance, including former ministers, marched to Rashtrapati Bhavan today to press for the removal of “tainted” people from the central government.
Among those who walked the 1 km from Parliament annexe were former deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, former finance minister Jaswant Singh and NDA convener George Fernandes, as well as several other Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha MPs.
Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was not among those who protested against “tainted” Union railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav, coal and mines minister Sibu Soren, as well as ministers of state Mohammad Taslimuddin, Jay Prakash Yadav, Prem Gupta and M.A. Fatmi.
The Congress questioned the NDA’s seriousness. Party spokesperson Anand Sharma said the NDA had fielded 78 persons with criminal records during the recent Lok Sabha elections. Sharma said Advani, Fernandes and Murli Manohar Joshi should not have found a place in the Vajpayee cabinet and Uma Bharti should not have been made chief minister if the NDA was serious about denying “tainted” ministers a place in the government.
Rapid Action Force personnel posted along the route tried to prevent newspersons from accompanying the marchers, leading to scuffles thrice. Advani’s private secretary Deepak Chopra and senior BJP leader V.K. Malhotra had to intervene to keep matters from getting out of hand.
Arun Jaitley, Sushil Kumar Modi, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Vinod Khanna and Maneka Gandhi were among the protesters. The Janata Dal (United)’s Nitish Kumar, the Telugu Desam Party’s Jagannathan, the Shiv Sena’s Chandrakant Khaire, the Biju Janata Dal’s Arjun Sethi and the Shiromani Akali Dal’s Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa were also present.
The Trinamul Congress was the only ally not to join the march.
Senior BJP leaders Kalyan Singh and Sushma Swaraj drove in to Rashtrapati Bhavan after the protestors had assembled there.
Some of the MPs held placards reading “Pradhan mantri sharam karo, apradhi mantriyon ko hatao”, “Bapu ke desh mein apradhi mantri-besh desh mein (Criminals are masquerading as ministers in Gandhi’s land)” and “Sonia-Manmohan sarkar ki dekh shaan, apradhi mantri mere Bharat mahaan”.
A 13-member team met President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and submitted a memorandum detailing the criminal cases pending against Laloo Prasad, Taslimuddin, Fatmi and the other ministers and sought their removal from the Manmohan government.
Fernandes said Kalam had said he would look into their demand.