Rajya Sabha disrupted over cash-for-votes scandal

Indo Asian News Service

New Delhi, March 22 (IANS) Rajya Sabha proceedings were disrupted Tuesday as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sought a discussion on the 2008 cash-for-votes scandal that has figured in leaked US diplomatic cables while members from the ruling benches raised the reported telecom irregularities during the NDA regime.

After three adjournments till 2 p.m., the upper house was adjourned for the day as members from both opposition and ruling benches raised the pitch against each other.

As soon as the house met, opposition leader Arun Jaitley said his party has submitted notice for admitting a privilege motion against the prime minister and said a notice was also given to take up the discussion on the issues revealed by WikiLeaks.

Deputy Chairman K. Rahman Khan however said that Chairman M. Hamid Ansari is 'seized of the matter' and the notice for taking up the discussion has not been approved by the chair.

Irked BJP members raised slogans and demanded that the chair allow the discussion on the issue, and to counter this members from the ruling benches raised the pitch against the reported telecom regularities during the NDA regime. Congress members waved copies of a news paper, which carried reports on alleged telecom irregularities during the NDA regime when senior BJP leader Arun Shourie held the portfolio.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ashwani Kumar tried to pacify opposition members, urging them to take up the issue after the zero hour.

'Zero hour is an important hour where issues of national importance are raised. Later it can be taken up,' he said.

The opposition was briefly pacified. But as BJP's Prabhat Jha was called to ask his question, opposition members again rose and asked the chair to allow the leader of the opposition to speak on the privilege motion.

Following this, the house was adjourned for 15 minutes. As the house reassembled, the chair allowed the leader of opposition to speak, but this time, members from the ruling benches protested. The chair's attempt to pacify the Congress members failed even as he repeatedly said that leader of opposition should be allowed to speak as it is his privilege, but the members from the ruling benches kept shouting 'no, no', and the house was adjourned till 12 noon.

Later, amidst similar scenes, the house was adjourned till 2 p.m. and later for the day.

Amidst the din, the only business that could be transacted was the passage of the National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (special) Bill.

The BJP also moved a privilege motion against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the upper house blaming him for misrepresenting facts about the findings of a parliamentary committee which probed the cash-for-votes scandal in 2008.

As per leaked US diplomatic cables, an American diplomat was told that Rs.50-60 crore had been kept aside by the Congress to win over MPs during a 2008 trust vote in parliament. The government has denied the charge.