The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hit, Natwar rages at PM

New Delhi, Aug. 8: Natwar Singh tonight launched the strongest attack yet by anyone on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after the Congress suspended the former foreign minister from primary membership of the party.

The Congress said it would also issue a showcause notice asking Natwar to explain why he should not be expelled.

Natwar, who will have two weeks to reply, has been punished for his alleged role in the oil-for-food scandal in getting persons close to him contracts from Iraq.

Natwar reacted with fury declaring that he was ready for a “decisive battle”.

“I want to write to the Guinness Book of Records that Manmohan Singh is the only Prime Minister of India among the 11 Prime Ministers that the country had who has not won even a municipal election. What is he going to tell me'” Natwar asked. “Manmohan Singh is a nominated Prime Minister. He is not a representative of the people of India,” he added.

Suspension from primary membership does not mean Natwar has lost his position as an MP and a member of the Congress parliamentary party (CPP).

Defence minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is one of the four members of the Congress’s disciplinary committee that met late tonight to decide on the action, said the parliamentary party had its own constitution under which to act when it becomes necessary.

Being a part of the CPP means Natwar will be subject to party whip. If he defies the whip, further action might become necessary.

Mukherjee explained that today’s action did not mean Natwar’s punishment was over.

He said if Natwar could satisfy the party with his explanation, it would be a closed chapter, a possibility that looks highly unlikely.

The decision came a day after the Pathak committee report, which held Natwar responsible for using his position in the Congress to acquire oil contracts for persons close to him, was placed in Parliament.

Although Natwar performed the gross indiscipline of filing a privilege notice against Manmohan, the party has not specifically cited that action as the reason for suspension to prevent him from striking the pose of a martyr.

The party also does not want to expel Natwar at this moment because that is what he wants so that he can hold on to his MP’s position as an Independent member enjoying the freedom to speak as he pleases in Parliament.

Now that he remains a CPP member, Natwar won’t be allowed to open his mouth in the Rajya Sabha if the privilege notice does come up and the party does not list him as one of the speakers.

Natwar’s late-night outburst is being seen as an attempt to force the party’s hand and expel him.

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