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PM takes Singh by the horn

New Delhi, Aug. 1: The Prime Minister today pinned Jaswant Singh down in Parliament, asking him to give the name of the “mole”.

“The honourable member should answer the simple question: who is the mole, and why is he shying away from disclosing the name'” Manmohan Singh asked in the Rajya Sabha.

In his just-released book, A Call to Honour, the BJP leader has said there was a “mole” in P.V. Narasimha Rao’s PMO who leaked nuclear secrets to the US.

Manmohan rose after the leader of the Opposition had explained his statement in the House. Describing him as a man of honour and decency who was held in high esteem, the Prime Minister said through his statements Jaswant was implying that even the present PMO has a mole.

“You are levelling serious charges. If you have any evidence, you should name that person. If you do not name, let the country draw its own conclusion,” he said, signing off a brief intervention that brought BJP members to their feet.

At the end of a three-hour discussion marked by much acrimony and two adjournments, Jaswant had revealed that the letter mentioning the mole was written by former US ambassador Harry Barnes to Senator Thomas Graham. But still there was no name.

In the evening, the former minister told a television channel that he did not know the name and that he had never claimed he did.

Outside the House after the discussion, Manmohan said the statement on the “mole” showed how low the top BJP leadership could “stoop”.

“It is for the country to judge what level the top BJP leadership could stoop to,” he said, when asked by the media if the government planned to take any action against Jaswant for making such an allegation and then failing to come out with the name.

Manmohan said it was regrettable that a person who had held top portfolios like finance, defence and external affairs should behave in this manner.

He added that former US deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott had written in his book that Jaswant had assured him he would “deliver India on CTBT”. He also recalled that the then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had at that time said India was ready to convert the unilateral moratorium on nuclear tests into a de jure moratorium.

The government and the Opposition clashed repeatedly, with one ruling party member shouting above the din that Jaswant had sold 50,000 copies of his book by raking up the controversy.

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