PROCEEDINGS IN both Houses of Parliament were disrupted on Wednesday as the opposition BJP and the ruling Congress and its allies traded charges over “tainted ministers” -- an old issue resurrected by Tuesday’s conviction of Shibu Soren.
Soren had to quit as the Union coal minister after a Delhi court held him guilty of conspiracy in the 1994 abduction and murder of his personal secretary Shashi Nath Jha. The President has accepted Soren’s resignation.
Leader of the Opposition L.K. Advani raised the matter in the Lok Sabha. At once Parliamentary Affairs Minister P.R. Dasmunsi and the Congress's allies, including the Left parties, tried to turn the tables on him. They said Advani could hardly claim the high moral ground, since he had been home minister and deputy prime minister despite a chargesheet against him in the Babri Masjid demolition case.
Advani said the case against him was due to his role in the Ram temple movement, which he was proud to have led. However, he deeply regretted the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
As Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee tried to control the agitated members, Advani asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to explain why he had inducted “tainted” ministers in the first place and demanded an apology from him.
Dasmunsi responded that the law made no distinction between a “single killing” and the creating of a “communal situation” in which many were killed – a reference to the riots that followed the Babri demolition. "If Advani could take his oath (as minister) when he was responsible for communal killings, why cannot anyone else charged with a crime which has not been proved, do so? What morality is he talking about?" he said.
The commotion led to the Lok Sabha being adjourned for more than two hours. In the Rajya Sabha too, business could not be transacted as the House was adjourned once, and later again for the rest of the day, over the Soren issue. The BJP members led by Jaswant Singh and Sushma Swaraj wanted the prime minister to explain why Soren was inducted into the cabinet in 2004 and then again last year when he had to resign earlier.
Outside Parliament, Law Minister H. R. Bharadwaj said the government was willing to amend the Representation of People’s Act to prevent ‘tainted’ individuals from contesting elections, and Sushma Swaraj said her party would support the move.