The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A prank on Bhairon
Natwar, Shekhawat

New Delhi, June 26: Bhairon Singh Shekhawat faces what should be a Brute of a dilemma for an honourable man: to stab or not to stab a friend in the name of democratic principles.

Only, the situation between the Vice-President and K. Natwar Singh has shades of irony absent from the tale of Brutus and Julius Caesar.

A day after Natwar signed on the NDA presidential nominee’s papers as principal proposer, the Congress has sought the former foreign minister’s disqualification from the Upper House. As Rajya Sabha chairman, it’s Shekhawat’s call.

He must go through the petition, decide if Natwar invites disqualification under the 10th schedule of the Constitution, and give his ruling.

A candidate sitting in judgement on his principal proposer is a “gross manifestation of a conflict of interest”, a Congress source said gleefully. “It is unethical, immoral and unprecedented,” said party spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi.

As the BJP mounted personal attacks on UPA-Left candidate Pratibha Patil, Sonia Gandhi is said to have felt the response should be at a “higher” plane, raising questions of “ethics, morality and constitutional propriety”.

Natwar was suspended from the Congress for “anti-party” activities and asked to quit the cabinet following the Iraq oil-for-food scam. But he stays a party member and technically has a place on the Rajya Sabha benches.

The disqualification plea was submitted by V. Narayanaswamy, the Congress’s chief whip in the Rajya Sabha. It said Natwar had campaigned for the Samajwadi Party in the Uttar Pradesh polls and attended the release of its manifesto.

To sound “fair”, another petition has sought the disqualification of a second Rajya Sabha member, Obaidullah Azmi, who too had solicited votes for the Samajwadi.

The Congress is banking on a provision upheld by the Supreme Court in 1994. It ruled that members could be disqualified for canvassing support for a party other than the one that had elected them.

The Congress had decided to move the petition during the second leg of the budget session, when Narayanaswamy had spoken to Shekhawat and reportedly secured a tacit nod. But the process gained momentum only after Natwar’s surprise appearance with BJP and NDA leaders yesterday.

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