‘Bribed’ MPs to be summoned before Lok Sabha panel (Lead)

July 30th, 2008 - 10:10 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Bharatiya Janata Party

New Delhi, July 30 (IANS) The seven-member Lok Sabha panel, constituted to look into three BJP MPs’ allegation that they were bribed to abstain in the July 22 trust vote, will summon them to record their statements and collect evidence. The committee, headed by Congress MP V. Kishore Chandra Deo, held its first meeting Wednesday.

It will also watch the footage of a sting operation on the alleged bribing conducted by the CNN-IBN television channel.

Three Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs - Ashok Argal, Faggan Singh Kulaste and Mahavir Bhagora - who July 22 evening stunned the nation by brandishing wads of cash in the Lok Sabha shortly before the Manmohan Singh government was to face the trust vote, had accused Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmad Patel of offering them bribes to abstain.

Deo said the committee would not restrict the channel from airing the footage. “I have no power to withhold the tape or allow its screening. The TV channel is free to air,” he told reporters after the probe committee meeting in Parliament House.

However, he was non-committal on the panel submitting its report before the Aug 11 deadline. “We do not want to waste time. We will try to do our best. But we are not going to hasten to give an incomplete report.”

The first meeting took place amid demands from the opposition that the panel be made more representative.

The committee was formed by Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee to investigate what has come to be known as the cash-for-vote scandal.

The BJP has claimed that the three MPs were offered Rs.90 million and had been paid Rs.10 million each as advance.

Amar Singh and Ahmed Patel - both Rajya Sabha MPs - have denied the allegation.

Besides Deo, other members of the committee are Vijay Kumar Malhotra (BJP), Mohammed Salim (Communist Party of India-Marxist), Devendra Prasad Yadav (Rashtriya Janata Dal), Ram Gopal Yadav (Samajwadi Party), Rajesh Verma (Bahujan Samaj Party) and C. Kuppuswamy (DMK).

The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has demanded that the committee be expanded to include more representatives from both sides.

A meeting of the NDA leaders chaired by Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani said Monday the panel should also include Gurudas Dasgupta (Communist Party of India), Anant Geete (Shiv Sena), Braja Kishore Tripathy (Biju Janata Dal) and Shriniwas Patil (Nationalist Congress Party).

“It is for the speaker to decide (whether there should be more members in the panel). It is not a UPA versus NDA thing. We have always worked in a non-partisan manner,” Deo said.

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