The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Power dinner on scam

New Delhi, Dec. 20: Speaker Somnath Chatterjee will host a power dinner tomorrow to discuss the fate of the scheme under which MPs are given money to develop their constituencies.

The initiative follows yesterday’s expos' on STAR News of seven MPs demanding or accepting bribes for sanctioning development work under the scheme.

Within days of ordering a probe into the cash-for-questions scandal, the Lok Sabha instituted another inquiry into the latest revelations about five of its members. The two others are from the Rajya Sabha where the ethics committee will investigate.

The Speaker asked the five MPs not to attend the session till the inquiry was over. But Ramswaroop Koli of the BJP continued to sit in the House, prompting a reminder from Chatterjee. Koli put up an open letter to the Speaker on the Parliament notice board, saying he was innocent.

Under the arrangement, better known as the MPLAD scheme, each MP is given Rs 2 crore a year.

Tomorrow’s dinner meeting will examine if it is “futile” to continue the scheme, how it interferes with district planning and whether there is an alternative way to fund constituency development.

Chatterjee has invited Rajya Sabha chairman Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, NDA chairman Atal Bihari Vajpayee, leader of the Lok Sabha Pranab Mukherjee and the leaders of the Opposition in both Houses, L.K. Advani and Jaswant Singh.

“In a loose sense, they represent the highest body of policy and decision-making and because they are from the government, the ruling coalition and the Opposition, they are empowered to take a decision on the scheme,” a source said.

Chatterjee and Advani have reportedly been unhappy with the scheme for some time because separately each of them has received complaints about its abuse and misuse.


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