|BJP’s Manvendra Singh (left) with Congress’s Sandip Dikshit outside Parliament on the last day of the winter session. (PTI)
New Delhi, Dec. 23: For the second time in history, Parliament members were today expelled for indulging in corrupt practices.
Parliament showed the door to 11 MPs for taking cash to ask questions in the two Houses.
Ten Lok Sabha members and one from the Rajya Sabha were expelled at the end of a long debate on the five-member probe committee’s report recommending expulsion.
Seeking more time for the guilty MPs to defend themselves, the BJP had moved an amendment, which was rejected.
“This is a sad occasion for me when I rise to move the motion. But as an ordinary citizen of the country, I feel the dignity of the House must be preserved not by the Supreme Court but by its members,” said Pranab Mukherjee, defence minister and leader of Lok Sabha.
At least two of the expelled MPs, Pradeep Gandhi (BJP) and Rajaram Pal (BSP), said they would go to court.
Both Houses adopted the motion recommending expulsion after it was put to vote. The debate was acrimonious and political opinion was split.
Members of the main opposition party, BJP, walked out of the Lok Sabha during voting. In the Rajya Sabha, they abstained.
Partners in the National Democratic Alliance, which the BJP leads, went separate ways. Janata Dal (United) voted for the motion with the Telugu Desam Party. The Biju Janata Dal and the Akali Dal followed the BJP. Of the 10 Lok Sabha members caught taking money, five were from the BJP.
Lal Krishna Advani, the leader of the Opposition, summed up the BJP’s mood. “It was stupidity more than corruption that is the issue. The MPs fell for the lure of money. The punishment (expulsion) given to them is not commensurate with the offence. I therefore cannot associate with the adoption of the motion (for expulsion).”
Jaswant Singh, the BJP’s Rajya Sabha leader, spoke in a different vein. “In public life, guilt is taken for granted until proved innocent.”
This is the first of the two reports Parliament has to deal with. A second probe into corruption in the MPs’ constituency scheme is under way. The report is expected by the end of January.
Although the BJP opposed the expulsions, its main argument was on the ground of procedure. The BJP leader in the Lok Sabha, V.K. Malhotra, said: “We are not shielding corruption. But we want the MPs to be given the right to present their case and take help of lawyers if they want.”
A member of the probe committee, Malhotra had given a note of dissent on the expulsion recommendation.
Speakers from the BJP said the probe committee had decided the issue in a hurry. It should have been referred to the privileges committee and the MPs should have been given more time to present their case.
All the speakers, however, stressed that the BJP had no intention of defending corruption. The Bahujan Samaj Party, which had three MPs on camera, joined the BJP and denounced the expulsion decision.
The argument on the other side was that the evidence was clinching and that none of the MPs had denied it.
In an earlier instance, a Congress MP was expelled in 1951 for the same reason.
The mood of the House appeared to have changed after the second revelation ' on the MPs’ scheme. On December 12, when the cash-for-questions scam broke, MPs were on the defensive.
During today’s debate, many of them targeted the media and called for legislation to rein in the electronic media.