The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Nat case cracked
- Congress long rope to rebel to hang himself
(N)AT WAR : Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hai (I am driven by revolutionary zeal), Natwar Singh (seen emerging from Parliament) said on Monday. (PTI)

New Delhi, Aug. 7: As the Pathak committee report today lifted the veil off Natwar Singh’s alleged influence-peddling, the Congress too appeared to have cracked the problem of how to deal with the estranged leader.

The political strategy seemed to be what a source described as giving Natwar a long rope to hang himself, a ploy that the BJP practised on Madan Lal Khurana.

A meeting in 2001 between Natwar and Iraqi oil minister Amer Mohammed Rasheed, followed by three letters written by him, led to two contracts being awarded to his son Jagat’s cousin Andaleeb Sehgal and friend Aditya Khanna, the report says.

It has found no evidence of the former external affairs minister making money from the deal, though Andaleeb and Aditya collected $193,000 as commission.

Along with the findings of the investigation, the government submitted an action-taken report in Parliament that said the probe would be taken forward by the Enforcement Directorate, the tax authorities and customs.

In Congress eyes, Natwar is now “guilty” on two counts. One, he used the party to pursue personal interests. Two, he filed a privilege notice against the Prime Minister, now under Rajya Sabha chairman Bhairon Singh Shekhawat’s consideration.

The expectation was that Natwar would be suspended. But the word from senior Congress leaders was: “We will wait and watch. We would rather give him a long rope to hang himself than do this job ourselves.”

Sources said Sonia was aware how Natwar was hobnobbing with Samajwadi Party and Opposition NDA leaders. But there are several reasons for deciding to sit tight.

One, if Natwar is suspended or expelled now, he could exit wearing the “halo of a martyr”. He is claiming, and sections of the Left and others are supporting him, that he is a “victim of US pressure”. His opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal is well known.

By acting against Natwar, the Prime Minister wouldn’t want to jeopardise efforts at agreement with the Left on the nuclear deal, on which he is expected to make a statement in Parliament shortly.

Two, Natwar is technically correct in moving the privilege notice, said a senior minister. There is no rule — parliamentary or Congress — which prevents a member from bringing such a notice against another.

“If action is taken against him, it will be seen as gagging a member’s parliamentary right. We don’t want to expose ourselves to this charge,” the minister said.

Three, it is thought best to allow Natwar to speak endlessly against the party and its leaders and destroy his credibility till he becomes a Khurana-like non-entity. “He has already discredited himself by hobnobbing with the likes of Amar Singh and George Fernandes,” a Congress leader said.

Four, the Congress is confident that beyond a point, neither the Left nor the BJP would stick up for Natwar.

“There is clinching evidence against him in the Pathak report. What more proof is needed to show what his intentions were — to promote his family and friends or fight for a bigger cause'” asked a source.

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