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Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP breathes fire on stamp scam

New Delhi, Nov. 12: The BJP has responded to the Congress’ graft allegations against Union ministers and its demand for a parliamentary probe into the matter by urging a CBI inquiry into the fake stamp paper scam.

Party chief M. Venkaiah Naidu today termed the Rs 3,000-crore stamp scam the mother of all scams and warned that if Sonia Gandhi did not prevail on the chief ministers of the “scam-tainted” states to accept a CBI probe, the BJP would be “forced to launch a campaign which could prove costly for the Congress”.

The BJP has alleged that scam mastermind Abdul Karim Telgi was given a licence by a former Maharashtra chief minister belonging to the Congress and added that his brother once held an important post in the Karnataka Congress. “That is why this matter concerns the people. Everyone is concerned and a state-level probe is not enough,” Naidu said.

The BJP chief’s hard-hitting statement is clearly a response to the letter Sonia sent to Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Monday.

In the letter, the Congress chief had urged the Prime Minister to institute an “independent parliamentary inquiry” into the repeated interference by six of his ministerial colleagues in the affairs of public sector undertakings. It was alleged that the ministers had sought favours from PSU chiefs and that the chief vigilance commissioner himself had brought the matter to Vajpayee’s notice.

“The reported misuse of the PSUs for personal and political benefits has apparently been played out to such a degree (by the Union ministers) that it has forced the chief vigilance commissioner to personally bring the matter to your notice,” Sonia wrote. She also sought to know the identity of the ministers.

Yesterday’s release of the letter is a clear sign that the Congress aims to make political capital of the matter in the run-up to Assembly elections in five states.

Vajpayee has denied that any minister is involved, but Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said the commissioner had named names during his October 16 meeting with the Prime Minister. Congress general secretary Ambika Soni on Monday set the Centre a November 14 deadline to disclose the names. She said her party would lead a delegation to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam on Saturday and present a petition if the Centre failed to respond in time.

But today it was the BJP that breathed fire, with Naidu suggesting that Sonia’s letter was based on “something that never took place”.

“But in the stamp-duty scam, police chiefs and political leaders are supposed to be involved. The matter is getting serious because our latest information is that when there was a political crisis in Maharashtra (over the Congress coalition government), some MLAs were taken to Karnataka and enjoyed the hospitality of Telgi and his brother,” the BJP chief said.

He also said there was evidence that the scam-accused were involved with the underworld, which made a CBI inquiry imperative. “However, the Congress, for reasons best known to it, is resisting the same. If the Congress president does not prepare her chief ministers for a CBI probe, then people will think the Congress wants to hide things,” Naidu added.

BJP sources say the stamp scam and the Tandoor case, in which a former Youth Congress chief has been sentenced to death, will figure prominently in the party’s election campaign.

Naidu refused to comment on the issues raised by Sonia in her letter and instead launched another anti-Congress tirade, this time against the A.K. Antony government in Kerala.

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