THE CONGRESS has finally acted against former external affairs minister Natwar Singh. On Tuesday, the party suspended him and issued him a show-cause notice as to why he should not be expelled for his several acts of omission.
The party’s Disciplinary Action Committee, which met late on Tuesday, is believed to have taken "very serious note" of Natwar's utterances and statements as well as the letters he wrote to the Iraqi authorities — as borne out by the Pathak Authority report.
Sources said the panel took into account the fact that the Rajya Sabha member had violated the party whip by absenting himself without permission when the office-of-profit bill was taken up.
The panel — which includes A.K. Antony, Pranab Mukherjee, Motilal Vora, Sushilkumar Shinde and Urmila Singh — also took into account Natwar's notice for a privilege motion against the PM for "gross impropriety" over the leak of the Pathak report before it was tabled in Parliament.
The privilege notice is currently under Rajya Sabha chairman B.S. Shekhawat's consideration.
On the face of it, the Congress cannot take action against an MP on this ground as he has the right to bring such motions, even though a ruling-party member does not give such notices. To that extent, Natwar's may perhaps have been the first case of an MP giving a privilege notice — which amounts to a no-confidence — against his own PM.
Natwar's suspension, if so decided, would mean that while he would retain his membership of the House, he would have to obey the party whip as and when issued. An expulsion, on the other hand, would mean that the Rajya Sabha member would have been shifted from the Congress ranks and put in the category of unattached MPs.
He retains the option of resigning his seat and taking up the Samajwadi Party's reported offer to join its ranks. (The SP has a vacancy in the Upper House.) Besides his recent statements and the privilege notice, Natwar has also annoyed his party bosses by attacking the government on the Indo-US nuclear deal. In fact, he was hobnobbing with opposition leaders like the SP's Amar Singh, BJP's Yashwant Sinha and JD(U)'s Digvijay Singh in seeking a parliamentary resolution on the issue---something which the government is totally against.
Earlier in the day, Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi indicated that the appropriate process of taking action against Natwar would start in the "proximate future" and that process would take a holistic view.