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Cong prepares to punish Natwar

The Congress believes there is enough ground for acting against Natwar, apart from his privilege notice against PM.

india Updated: Aug 09, 2006 01:48 IST

It's no longer a question of whether but of how soon the Congress will take action against Natwar Singh for giving notice for a privilege motion against the PM over the leak of the Pathak authority report.

On Monday, sources said after Sonia Gandhi conferred with her colleagues, the Congress, in principle, decided to wait till Rajya Sabha Chairman Bhairon Singh Shekhawat disposed the privilege notice under his consideration. If that happens on Tuesday, the party machinery will get into action.

Until then, it will closely monitor the conduct of Natwar, who has been hobnobbing with anti-Congress parties and leaders, ranging from the BJP and JD(U) to the TDP and AIADMK.

The Natwar episode could also figure in Sonia's interaction with UPA leaders (on Tuesday) against the backdrop of the opposition's campaign on the issue and the NDA's boycott of the Lok Sabha.

The Congress believes there is enough ground for acting against Natwar. Besides his privilege notice against the PM (which is being looked into by the RS chairman), Natwar violated party discipline by staying away from the RS when the office-of-profit bill was taken up — despite a three-line whip.

And, as the Pathak findings showed, he misused his position as head of the AICC foreign cell to secure contracts for persons close to him in the Iraqi oil deal. These are issues over which he can be hauled up by the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) and the AK Antony-led disciplinary action committee.

The party is also skeptical about Natwar's claim that his notice is against the institution of the PM and not Manmohan Singh.

The sources, however, said that while acting against Natwar, the Congress was keen to delink the privilege issue from his other two actions. This is because even if it unbecoming of a member to move such a motion against his own leader, he does have the right to do so as an MP — even though the CPP makes it clear that a member cannot act against the party's interest.

For his part, Natwar remained defiant. After the tabling of the Pathak Report-ATR and his meeting with opposition leaders Yashwant Sinha, Digvijay Singh and Amar Singh, agencies quoted him as saying: "The Congress party is not letting me speak in Parliament. We'll not let Manmohan Singh speak. I'll not surrender. My struggle will continue."

He wrote to Shekhawat, seeking permission to make a "personal explanation" to "vindicate" his reputation in the wake of the Pathak report.

First Published: Aug 08, 2006 03:37 IST