The Congress charged Vice-President BS Shekhawat of enacting a `melodrama’ under `duress’ by declaring his assets and said it would not demean the presidential poll process by making its nominee Pratibha Patil follow suit since the law does not call for it.
Taking an aggressive stand on the BJP’s move to pin it down on the issue, the party accused Shekhawat of `misleading people’ by claiming that he had no unpaid electricity, telephone, accommodation or aircraft bills and dared him to come out with a list of people who accompanied him during his flights.
"As Vice President, all bills under these heads are charged on the Consolidated Fund of India. No one can question the President or Vice President’s use of aircraft. But it would be more appropriate if he declares who traveled with him in his helicopter or airplane in the three months before his nomination," said PR Dasmunsi, Parliamentary Affairs Minister. Sources said Lok Sabha member JP Aggarwal has reportedly written to Defence Minister AK Antony to go into this issue.
According Dasmunsi, Patil wanted to submit her list of assets to the Returning Officer but he refused to accept it saying that the Presidential and Vice Presidential Election Act, 1952 does not ask for it.
"If it is an issue of morality with Shekhawat, why didn’t he declare his assets in 2002 when he contested for the Vice President’s post, or in 2004 when the RPA Act was amended to make it mandatory for MPs and MLAs or immediately after filing his presidential nomination on June 25?" asked Dasmunsi.
"By listing his assets, he is doing something which is not required by law but he is not doing what he should be doing---responding to charges about his educational qualification, his suspension from service or his claim in the Rajasthan Assembly that a CBI probe was on against his son-in-law when no such inquiry was there," said spokesman Abhishek Singhvi.
According to Dasmunsi, Shekhawat was compelled to declare his assets when he and the BJP were put on the backfoot in view of Patil’s resignation as Rajasthan governor, the commitment of over six lakh votes for her in the electoral college and the differences in the NDA over his candidature.