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Natwar moves privilege motion against PM

Source: PTI
August 06, 2006 20:31 IST
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Indicted by the Justice R S Pathak for misusing his position, Natwar Singh on Sunday set himself up for a confrontation with the Congress party by giving notice of privilege motion against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a move seen by the party as an "act of absolute indiscipline".

The former external affairs minister, who is a member of Rajya Sabha, sent a notice of breach of privilege to the House Secretariat against the prime minister a day ahead of the expected tabling in Parliament of the report of Justice Pathak which has indicted him and his son Jagat for misusing their position to help people close to them to get oil contracts from erstwhile Saddam Hussein regime in 2001.

The 75-year-old former minister, who had said only two days ago that he and Congress party were inseparable, has sent the privilege notice accusing the government of leaking
Justice Pathak's report on Thursday when it was presented to the prime minister.

Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, who is the Chairman of Rajya Sabha, will now have to decide whether to admit the motion which is bound to get the support of Samajwadi Party, Telugu Desam Party and All India Anna Dravida Munrthra Kazhagam with whom an upset Natwar Singh has been hobnobbing in recent days. Congress' key ally Communist Party of India also justified Natwar's move.

The SP, TDP and AIADMK together have a total of strength of 33 members in 245-member Rajya Sabha. The support of a minimum of 25 members is necessary for an admission of a privilege motion.

Natwar has met Amar Singh, General Secretary of Samajwadi Party, which has extended an open invitation to him to join it, and even the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders in the last two days.

In the notice, Singh has raised strong objections on how the Pathak Committee report, submitted to the prime minister, was leaked to the media.

He has accused the government of violating Parliamentary norms by revealing contents of the report to the media while the monsoon session was underway, the sources said.

The report indicted Singh and his son, Jagat, for "misusing" their position for procurement of contracts in the United Nations Oil for Food programme in Iraq during the Saddam Hussein regime but exonerated the Congress party.

Both Singh and the Congress party were described as "non-contractual beneficiaries" in the Volcker report that went into allegations of kickbacks in the oil contracts.

The sources said that the Rajya Sabha secretariat received a number of privilege notices but not all were admitted.

"It has to be examined whether prima facie there is breach of privilege before it can be admitted", they said.

Natwar Singh's move coincided with Samajwadi Party, TDP and AIADMK contemplating a privilege motion against the prime minister on the leakage issue.

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