Lok Sabha panel begins probe into cash for vote scandal

July 30th, 2008 - 2:22 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Somnath Chatterjee

New Delhi, July 30 (IANS) The seven-member Lok Sabha committee formed to probe the allegations by three BJP MPs that they had been bribed to abstain in the July 22 trust vote began its first meeting Wednesday amid demands from the opposition that the panel be made more representative. The committee, formed by Speaker Somnath Chatterjee to investigate what has come to be known as the ‘cash for vote scandal’, in its first meeting will lay down procedures and modalities for the proceedings.

Headed by senior Congress MP V. Kishore Chandra Deo, the panel will collect evidence from the three Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs - Ashok Argal, Fagan Singh Kulaste and Mahavir Bhagora.

The three, who had 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.

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

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

The committee is also expected to summon reporters of the CNN-IBN television channel, who claimed to have conducted the sting operation about the bribe. The channel has already handed over its recordings to the speaker.

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 had 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).

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