Phone tapping again rears its head in parliament (Parliament Roundup)April 28th, 2010 - 9:31 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, April 28 (IANS) Phone tapping, this time involving conversations between a high-profile lobbyist and Communications Minister A. Raja on the allocation of 2G Spectrum, again reared its head in parliament Wednesday leading to demands for the minister’s resignation and disrupting the proceedings in both houses.The issue led to 75-minutes of the pre-lunch session being lost in the Rajya Sabha, which was adjourned twice, while the Lok Sabha lost an hour’s business due to one adjournment.
Both houses had been adjourned for the day Monday and Tuesday after angry opposition MPs demanded a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into a report that the phones of prominent politicians like Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar had been tapped. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had nixed the demand, angering the opposition further and leading it to give notice of a privilege motion in the Lok Sabha.
Also on Wednesday, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee assured parliament that every possible step would be taken to curb the price rise and said inflation would ease as there are indications of a fall in food prices that have been driving it.
“The government has utmost concern about the current price situation,” Mukherjee said a day after 13 opposition parties had called a 12-hour nationwide strike saying the government had failed to tame inflation. He was speaking during a debate in the Lok Sabha ahead of the passage of the Finance Bill.
The phone tapping trouble began Wednesday as soon as the Rajya Sabha assembled with AIADMK and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members raising the issue and demanding a discussion on it.
Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley (BJP) said in a brief statement: “Early this week, there was a report about phone tapping. The home minister made a statement that those were not authorised. Today there is a news report which seems to be an authorised case of phone tapping.
“The question is whether leaders of industry are involved in the allocation of portfolios by the prime minister. The allocation of 2G spectrum seems to be linked to this.”
As the protests continued, Chairman Hamid Ansari said: “If you want a discussion, it will be organised.” This did not satisfy V. Maitreyan and other AIADMK members, who continued to shout slogans demanding Raja’s resignation.
Ansari then adjourned the house till 12 noon. But the disturbances continued even after the house reassembled and Deputy Chairman K. Rahman Khan adjourned the sitting for 15 minutes.
In the Lok Sabha, members from the AIADMK, the Left and the Janata Dal-United raised the issue during zero hour, while BJP MPs created a ruckus on the breach of privilege notice given by the party deputy leader Gopinath Munde and 44 other MPs against the prime minister.
The BJP had Tuesday served a breach of privilege notice against the prime minister for his remarks outside the house rejecting the demand for a JPC probe into the alleged tapping of phones of prominent parliamentarians, as also wrongdoing in the Indian Premier League.
As the protests continued, Speaker Meira Kumar adjourned the house till 2 p.m. When the house reassembled, AIADMK MPs gathered near the speaker’s podium, demanding Raja’s resignation.
Finance Minister Mukherjee then assured the house that the government was committed to discussing with the opposition the IPL controversy and allegations of phone tapping.
Mukherjee said he and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would speak to opposition leaders on the issues and said the government was answerable to the house.
A front-paged report Wednesday in The Pioneer said: “The cat is finally out of the bag. The CBI has acquired clinching evidence showing that a high-profile woman public relations lobbyist acted as powerbroker in the multi-crore 2G spectrum scam and that she was in regular touch with Telecom Minister A Raja.”
“The investigating agency unearthed damning evidence of wheeling-dealing in the spectrum scam by authorised tapping of telephones of several persons, including Nira Radia, who runs several public relations and consultancy companies - like Vaishnavi Corporate Consultants, Noesis Strategic Consulting Services, Vitcom Consulting and Neucom Consulting,” the report said.
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