Political parties whose MPs were named in human trafficking using forged passports said they would rather await “concrete” proof before expelling them as the government said it will go by police investigation and what all parties say at a meet called by the Lok Sabha Speaker on April 25.
In her first public reaction, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati added a new twist. She accused political opponents of hatching a "conspiracy" against her party in the thick of UP polls and ruled out action against her party MPs whose names have cropped up without “concrete poof.”
"Prima facie, it appears to be a conspiracy hatched by the parties opposed to us," Mayawati told a rally at Sultanpur whose MP, Mohammed Tahir Khan, is among the parliamentarians named by Sunderlal Yadav, a betel-shop owner who acted as a go-between.
Similarly, BJP’s LK Advani and Arun Jaitley ruled out summary expulsion, saying the party had already taken appropriate action against Babubhai Katara, the tribal MP from Dahod, Gujarat, no sooner he was arrested at Delhi airport while attempting to take a woman and a boy on the passports of his wife and son.
Though stung by the discloure, Advani refused to give up the BJP’s high moral ground. "It makes me sad. (But) our response to the situation has been prompt and in stark contrast with the stand taken by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh while defending the tainted ministers in the UPA government," he told a press meet in Pune.
Even as the Congress pressed for stern action against the MPs, Advani held that what was needed to be done at the party level had been done in regard to Katara and the matter would be referred to the privileges committee of Parliament.
Three MPs – Khan, Kohli and Mitrasen Yadav—whose were named by Sunderlal Yadav also denied any involvement. While Khan said he went to UK and Pakistan on personal visits, Kohli, who was also named as one of the MPs allegedly willing to misappropriate funds from MPLADS (MP's Local Area Development Scheme) for personal gains, said he had never been abroad nor any passport issued for his children.
Mitrasen Yadav, who admitted he knew Sunderlal, threatened to move a privilege motion in Parliament against a TV news channel for "maligning" his image. He said he had visited several countries as part of a Parliamentary delegation and "no passports" had been issued in the name of his wife, son and daughter-in-law.
The Telengana Rashtriya Samithi dismissed as an utter lie the claim by Sunderlal Yadav that he had introduced a travel agent to its chief and former Union Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao.
Excepting in the case of Katara who was arrested last Wednesday, police have not disclosed details about the role of the other MPs.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister P R Dasmunsi agreed that all MPs could not be viewed with suspicion and action would have to await police probe. “The entire Parliament cannot be blamed for acts of some black sheep. We will wait for the meeting called by the Speaker.”
The issue is likely overshadow the second phase of Parliament's budget session beginning April 26 amidst demands that other MPs linked to the matter be expelled.
Meanwhile, officials said the Ministry of External Affairs would approach the Lok Sabha Secretariat to seek its opinion on whether Katara’s diplomatic passport should be cancelled.
Minister for Overseas Affairs Vyalar Ravi said the government has initiated a move to amend the Emigration Act to curb such practices by giving more teeth to the law.
The amendment will provide harsher punishment for human trafficking, including an increase of the minimum prison term to five years from the current six months for those indulging in such a crime.
The fine is also proposed to be increased manifold from present Rs 1,000 to Rs 25,000.
Sunderlal Yadav told a local court that he had introduced travel agents -- Mahesh Gupta and Rashid -- to TRS chief K Chandrashekhar Rao, MP from Karimnagar in Andhra Pradesh, Ramswaroop Koli, BJP MP from Bhayana in Rajasthan, BSP MPs Mohammed Tahir Khan from Sultanpur, Mitrasen Yadav from Faizabad and Ashok Rawat from Misrikh and late parliamentarian Ram Awadh.