The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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More MPs fall for money
- Bribes for development projects

New Delhi, Dec. 19: More MPs have been caught in a bribe scandal even before the probe into 11 of their fellow members taking cash to ask questions in Parliament is complete.

In another sting operation conducted by STAR News, seven MPs are seen on camera demanding/accepting bribes for sanctioning projects under the local area development scheme. Under the scheme, each MP gets to spend Rs 2 crore a year on work in their constituencies.

Of the seven, five are from the Lok Sabha and the two others from the Rajya Sabha. Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, who had boasted after the first expose on 11 MPs that none of them was from his party, had to eat crow today.

Samajwadi member Paras Nath Yadav is among the compromised seven and has been asked to resign as MP by the party. It must be said though that the eighth MP targeted by the sting, Toofani Singh Saroj, refused the bribe offer. He is a Samajwadi member.

Former Goa chief minister Churchill Alemao, who is now with the Congress, and a former minister of state in the Vajpayee government, Faggan Singh Kulaste, of the BJP, have been filmed asking for a cut to give projects to Ashray Abhiyaan, a fictitious NGO used as decoy by STAR News.

The rest of the Sinning Seven are Chandra Pratap Singh and Ramswaroop Koli (BJP), Sakshi Maharaj (Rashtriya Kranti Party) and Isam Singh (Bahujan Samaj Party) ' the last two from the Rajya Sabha.

The amounts ranged from Rs 25,000, which one MP accepted, to Rs 50 lakh, which another demanded.

Still to recover from the cash-for-questions scam, the political establishment was stunned into silence.

Kapil Sibal, the science and technology minister, said: “The system is rotten to the core. Unless we get the rot cleaned, how are we going to survive as a democracy' When you have the kind of discretionary powers granted by the scheme, an element of corruption seeps in.”

Sources close to the Speaker, Somnath Chatterjee, and the Rajya Sabha chairperson, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, said they would confer with leaders of all parties tomorrow morning before they assemble and decide what to do. The Lok Sabha committee, probing the cash-for-questions scandal, may be asked to inquire into the latest revelations.

The view, cutting across parties, that was emerging was whether the scheme had more pitfalls than advantages. Sources close to the Speaker said his opinion was it should be scrapped because it interfered with district planning.

Under the scheme, each MP submits a list of works he wants done to the head of the district who executes them according to procedures laid down by the state government. But panchayati raj institutions and NGOs, approved by the district heads, can also be engaged. The scheme bars private contractors. In urban areas, the scheme is implemented by municipal corporations.

Chatterjee has received two reports, one from the comptroller and auditor-general and the other from former parliamentarian Era Sezhiyan on the scheme’s shortcomings.

The leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and BJP chief, L.K. Advani, also feels the scheme should be replaced with a more transparent mechanism. BJP sources said Advani had shared his views with Chatterjee and Shekhawat. He had mooted the idea of forming a high-powered committee to revisit the scheme.

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