The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hon’ble MP torn from Rani
- Quoting Jefferson, House panel frowns on liaison

New Delhi, Aug. 23: Amid the talk of honeymoon and divorce, India’s Parliament found a reason to unite today — against an MP who took along his girlfriend rather than his wife on official tours.

A House committee report admonished Gaya MP Rajesh Kumar Manjhi, 39, for “tarnishing… democratic institutions” and suggested he be suspended from 30 sittings of the Lok Sabha.

The report by 12 MPs exhorted the Rashtriya Janata Dal member to follow the “noble ideals” that befit the “exalted” status of parliamentarians — some of whom have recently been charged with bribery, murder or human trafficking.

“Holding of an exalted position of a member of Parliament carries with it the onerous responsibility of measuring up to the people’s expectations,” the committee said.

Stirring words after some MPs felt that they were called “headless chicken” by Ronen Sen, the ambassador to the US.

Manjhi, unlike the BJP’s Babubhai Katara, isn’t accused of accepting money to ferry women abroad on his wife’s passport. His wife Pramila alleges he took a woman called “Rani” on trips using railway passes or air tickets issued in the spouse’s name.

Manjhi seems to have made one of these tours as part of the House standing committee on women’s empowerment.

The House advised Manjhi to “endeavour to nurture a harmonious relationship with his wife”, raising murmurs from some MPs who didn’t wish to be named, of trespassing on a private matter.

“The committee further hopes that Mr Manjhi would conduct himself in a more responsible and mature manner in his personal relationship,” said the 12-member panel set up by Speaker Somnath Chatterjee to look into Pramila’s complaints.

The committee recommended that Manjhi be restrained from taking his spouse or girlfriend on official tours till the conclusion of the 14th Lok Sabha.

Pramila had on December 15 last year written to the Speaker alleging ill-treatment by her husband. On May 31, she wrote to the committee chairman withdrawing the charges.

The panel, however, went on with the probe and Pramila repeated the accusations before it, saying she had withdrawn them under duress.

Manjhi at first denied the charges but panicked when told that lying to a parliamentary committee could have serious consequences. He sent a letter admitting his offence but pleading he didn’t know the rules.

But the committee nailed him for suppression of facts, cheating, impersonation and contempt of the House.

The 12 members concluded their report by quoting the former US President and great liberal Thomas Jefferson: “Man was destined for society. His morality, therefore, was to be formed to this object….”

After such heavy stuff, Manjhi — whose profile describes him as an “Under-Matric” with “knowledge of Tibetan and Japanese languages” – might be glad to be able to give those 30 sittings a miss.

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