BJP on offensive with graft charges against Chidambaram, Chandy

Sitharaman denied on Thursday that raising the issue of corruption once again had any link with the disruption of ongoing session.

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi | Updated: December 4, 2015 3:37:15 am
New Delhi: Minister of State for Commerce & Industry (Independent Charge) Nirmala Sitharaman addressing a press conference at Parliament in New Delhi on Thursday during the winter session. PTI Photo by Subhav Shukla (PTI12_3_2015_000227A) Minister of State for Commerce & Industry (Independent Charge) Nirmala Sitharaman addressing a press conference at Parliament in New Delhi on Thursday during the winter session. (Source: PTI)

As the Congress let off on one attack in Parliament and took up another, the BJP hit back Thursday with corruption allegations against Congress leaders in a number of states. The BJP offensive followed a number of attempts to strike a conciliatory note to get the government’s legislative agenda cleared.

Union minister Nirmala Sitharaman questioned the role of former finance minister P Chidambaram in the 2G spectrum scam. She referred to recent raids by the Enforcement Directorate on firms allegedly linked to Chidambaram’s son Karti.

She listed “several instances of blatant corruption” by “a series of noble great leaders of Congress”, who included the chief ministers of Kerala and Himachal Pradesh besides former Union ministers Chidambaram and Preneet Kaur — the wife of Amarinder Singh, currently the Congress’s deputy leader in the Lok Sabha.

Referring to a notification by the Swiss Bank Authority, Sitharaman said it has “just reinforced” the charge that Kaur had undisclosed bank accounts outside India. “Is Congress seized of the matter?… We welcome the energy, enthusiasm and eagerness of the Congress to engage with us in Parliament. But the Congress is behaving as if nothing has happened… as if they have not heard even a whisper,” Sitharaman said. “It is not one but several instances of corruption where Congress is happily looking the other way. We hope it engages in matters of public importance.”

Sitharaman said recent raids by Income Tax and ED authorities on certain firms allegedly connected to Karti Chidambaram were “part of the larger 2G inquiry”. As finance minister, Chidambaram “allowed” certain transactions to happen because his son had “interests” in these firms, she said.

She said Kerala CM Oommen Chandy has been accused of bribery by the accused in the solar scam and there have been charges of corruption also against Virbhadra Singh (Himachal ) and Harish Rawat (Uttarakhand).

The Congress rejected the allegation against Chandy. “The man in question here is convicted of murder and ever since he was chargesheeted he has been levelling wild charges against the judge in the case, against various ministers. He is a person whose character and record is described by the murder conviction. The Congress would reject everything that he says most forcefully and vehemently,” Congress spokesperson Rajiv Gowda said.

During the washed out monsoon session, the BJP had released a booklet about alleged scams in Congress-ruled states. Sitharaman denied on Thursday that raising the issue of corruption once again had any link with the disruption of ongoing session. “I would expect business to run and do constructive business. Whenever BJP takes up issues of corruption… that need not necessary be tied with the functioning of Parliament.”

She added, however, that she would not “imagine” that the attack on the Congress would have a bearing on its stand on the GST bill. “GST is something which is their (Congress) bill. It is in national interest. If these are becoming an issue because of which Congress — and I would not imagine that — would not support GST, then it would be a sad day,” she said.

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