Houses on fire, ATR on Pathak coming
THE GOVERNMENT intends to place the Action Taken Report on the findings of the Pathak Authority -- as well as on their leak to the media -- in the ongoing monsoon session of Parliament.india Updated: Aug 05, 2006 01:41 IST
THE GOVERNMENT intends to place the Action Taken Report on the findings of the Pathak Authority -- as well as on their leak to the media -- in the ongoing monsoon session of Parliament.
On Friday, the issue rocked the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, leading to their premature adjournment when slogan shouting BJP-NDA members stalled proceedings.
In the UPA's firing line over the "mole" controversy raised by its leader Jaswant Singh, the BJP seized the opportunity provided by the Pathak panel's findings (in the Iraqi oil-for-food scam involving former external affairs minister Natwar Singh) and their leak to hit out at the ruling party.
In an obvious attempt to play on the emotions of Natwar Singh, leader of the opposition L.K. Advani accused the government of managing to "exonerate" the Congress and making a "scapegoat" of the former external affairs minister. Later, at a press conference, Advani hastily clarified that he was not pointing a finger at the Pathak Authority.
But the government had committed contempt of Parliament by leaking the report before it was placed in the House, he alleged, demanding that the report be immediately tabled in the House and a statement made on the leak on Monday.
The NDA intends to keep up the tempo of attack. On Monday, it will decide whether to move a privilege motion against the PM in the Lok Sabha for the report's leakage. In the House, the leak was also resented by Speaker Somnath Chatterjee.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister P.R. Dasmunsi, for his part, rejected the opposition charge of "manipulating" the Congress's exoneration and said there would be a "very firm" probe into the leak by an agency (though he did not name it). As for the ATR, the government would submit it at the earliest, he said.
In accordance with procedure, the Pathak report, submitted to the PM, has to be routed to the nodal ministry -- in this case, the Finance Ministry -- which will then prepare the ATR. This will be placed before the cabinet. After it is cleared by the cabinet, the ATR will be tabled in the House.
Also on Friday, Justice R.S. Pathak came on record to say that there was no leak from his side or his office.
Speculation remains about Natwar Singh's fate and place in the Congress. While it is clear that there is no possibility of his return to the cabinet now, the AICC will take a view only after the ATR is placed in Parliament and the issue is put in the public domain.
For his part, Natwar Singh said he and the Congress were "inseparable" and he would respond to any questions from the party if asked. But in an interview to CNN-IBN he indicated that he would keep his options open for the future.