Leader of the Opposition LK Advani has demanded that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh make a statement in Parliament on Monday on the issue of his office writing to the Petroleum Ministry to allegedly help Shipping Minister TR Baalu get natural gas from PSUs for companies owned by his family.
And indications are that Singh will distance himself from the episode, taking the view that the letters were “routine” in cases of such representations received by it. The Congress does not wish to antagonise its ally, the DMK, and will defend the PM and Baalu.
Prithviraj Chauhan, Minister of State in the PMO, is expected to tell Parliament that the PM is in no way connected to the issue. Also, there are several instances where the PMO has responded with such letters to various ministries. The official line follows a high-level discussion.
But Opposition leaders say they won’t buy the argument. “The facts of the case are not in doubt. The minister has admitted to seeking favours from the government and the PMO has written as many as eight letters to the Petroleum Ministry recommending his case,” said Advani.
Other party leaders said the NDA is mulling moving a motion of breach of privilege against Baalu for “misleading” Parliament. They will meet on Monday morning to decide strategy.
Baalu, for his part, has sought a probe into how the letters found their way to the AIADMK.
Baalu had made the admission in Rajya Sabha on April 23, following which the BJP and AIADMK had demanded the government come clean. On Thursday, House Chairman Hamid Ansari had turned AIADMK leader V Maitreyan out and the next day, NDA members had remained silent during question hour in protest.
Opposition leaders want Ansari to rescind his order but he has said the issue was over with that day’s proceedings. Signaling the BJP won’t let go of the issue, Advani said in Thiruvananthapuram that “an MP belonging to the AIADMK has been made a scapegoat for the minister’s questionable conduct”.