| Vajpayee waves to the media on his arrival in Parliament on Tuesday. (PTI)
New Delhi, Aug. 19: Sonia Gandhi made up for the gaffe she committed yesterday with her reference to RSS leaders seeking pardon from Indira Gandhi when they were incarcerated during the Emergency.
Today, the slip-up was washed away when letters in support of Sonia’s charges were released in the Lok Sabha during the debate on the no-confidence motion. If it was the leader of the Opposition who wore the blushes yesterday when former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar asked her to disclose the letters she had mentioned, today it was the BJP that turned red as Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh released the “incriminating” evidence.
First, Singh read out a “letter” allegedly written by the head of a self-pronounced “socio-cultural” organisation close to the BJP, requesting Indira Gandhi to release him from jail.
There was a howl of protest from the ruling party which demanded that the references should be expunged. Singh ran towards the Speaker’s table and presented him with a copy of the “letter”.
The Speaker ruled that the “letter” could not be treated as “authentic” because it was read out from a news report and, therefore, the reference would be expunged.
To this, Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar asked what was the point of expunging it when the nation was watching the proceedings live on TV. The Speaker’s answer was: “They will also watch my ruling.”
Singh then produced a letter Congress member Mani Shankar Aiyar claimed was written by a senior member of the House.
Before he began to read it, there was a furore from the BJP, following which the Speaker asked to see the letter.
“It was a letter with a Lok Sabha symbol in green. The symbol in green was clearly visible. It was written on a Lok Sabha letterhead,” Aiyar insisted even as BJP and Opposition members traded charges.
Taking a cue from Chandra Shekhar, the Speaker said he would examine the letter. Chandra Shekhar’s contention was that the proceedings should not be allowed to be disrupted just because the authenticity of a certain letter had to be examined.
He also cited the example of Samata Party MP Prabhunath Singh who, he said, had agreed to stop reading from a newspaper article which questioned certain allegedly dubious money deals Sonia had indulged in before she became an Indian citizen.
But charged-up members refused to listen as Aiyar and foreign minister Yashwant Sinha engaged in a slanging match. The issue was the interpretation of a certain rule on when a paper could be treated as being laid in the House.
The final shot from Singh was a quote from a book by former Jan Sangh president Balraj Madhok in which he alleged that several RSS members had sought to be pardoned during the Emergency in return for supporting Indira Gandhi’s 20-point programme.
But the reference to Emergency “turncoats” was only one aspect of Singh’s speech. He slammed the Prime Minister for failing to ensure the smooth conduct of the House as its leader and reminded Atal Bihari Vajpayee that, as head of the Opposition, he was “responsible” for once stalling proceedings for 12 days.
Singh described the NDA government as a dispensation of “Aya Rams, gaya Rams” and asked why as many as 41 ministers were dropped in the last four years.
“Ministers are changed like darogas,” he said.