'We lost our MPs for good cause'
Following the Supreme Court's verdict today, the BJP is ruling out tickets to its tainted MPs, reports Shekhar Iyer.india Updated: Jan 10, 2007 22:06 IST
Six of the eleven MPs expelled after the cash-for-question TV sting belonged to the BJP and the party did not hide its dissent when Parliament acted against them in December 2005.
But soon after the Supreme Court's verdict upholding Parliament's powers to show them the door, the BJP buried its earlier opposition and ruled out ticket to the MPs to contest elections afresh.
Instead, the party hailed the verdict, saying it acknowledged “the supremacy of Parliament as far as conduct of its own members is concerned.”
BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said his party's note of dissent, articulated by Leader of Opposition LK Advani and his deputy, VK Malhotra, at the time of the expulsion – in December 2005 - was a "past issue."
Prasad said, "I do not think the party will give them ticket. The party has always taken a serious view of acts of corruption even if it involves some of its own members."
BJP insiders, who did not wished to be named, attributed the change of the party’s position to two factors. One, the RSS had not approved the position taken by Advani in support of the MPs. Secondly, by hindsight, the party too thinks it is best to dump publicly the disgraced MPs belonging to the saffron fold.
On December 23, 2005, the BJP and the Biju Janata Dal had staged a walkout in the Lok Sabha after Advani said the punishment was disproportionate to the offence.
He even termed the act of the expelled members "stupidity," as they believed that those carrying out the sting operation were representatives of non-governmental organisations and fell into their trap.
Advani’s remark had then shocked many BJP members and met with disapproval from the RSS, which was upset with the action of the MPs as they were supposed to uphold the Sangh’s credo of probity at all times.
Prior to this, BJP’s deputy leader in Lok Sabha VK Malhotra, who was a member of a House panel, had given a note of dissent. He was against the summary expulsion of the members without a hearing and wanted the issue to referred to the Privileges Committee.
Contrary to the BJP's stand in the Lok Sabha, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Jaswant Singh had preferred to go along with the House in expelling Chhattrapal Singh Lodha (BJP).
The five-member committee, headed by senior Congress MP Pawan Kumar Bansal, held the continuance of the membership of the ten accused as "untenable", but Malhotra had appended a note of dissent to the report.
Stating he was not against stern action against the guithy MPs, Malhotra had taken the view that, in the absence of any Supreme Court judgement on the matter, even the judiciary was divided on the issue with the Punjab and Haryana High Court holding that expulsion was not possible (in the Haridwari Lal case) and the Madhya Pradesh Court ruling otherwise.
Responding to the verdict, Malhotra suggested the government draw up set guidelines to act on allegations of corruption against lawmakers. "It's good that punishment is awarded for corruption, but there should also be rules in place to decide such cases," he said.