Opposition targets government over scams as session begins (Roundup)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NEW DELHI - Barring a few noisy scenes over alleged scandals involving corruption, peace largely prevailed in parliament Tuesday - the first day of the month-long winter session as opposition parties targeted the government over “scams after scams”.

The Rajya Sabha was adjourned for the day after obituary references but the Lok Sabha conducted question hour, some legislative business and okayed a constitutional amendment bill seeking to change the name of Orissa to Odisha.

As soon as the session began at 11 a.m., opposition members in the Lok Sabha refused to let the question hour start and demanded a discussion on graft issues linked to the Commonwealth Games, the Adarsh cooperative housing society scam and the 2G spectrum allocation.

Amid noisy protests and slogan shouting, Speaker Meira Kumar pleaded with protesting members that any issue could be raised during the zero hour as Parliamentary Affairs Minister P.K. Bansal had agreed to allow them to do so under matters of urgent public importance.

The house then carried on with the question hour dominated by questions related to bad condition of highways in the country.

Surface Transport Minister Kamal Nath in his defence blamed the excess rains this year for the poor condition of roads.

“It is true that the condition of highways is not good in some parts. This year we had excess rains,” he said.

Following the question hour, MPs again raised the issue of scams but this time the speaker allowed them to make their point, though briefly.

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Basudeb Acharia, hitting out at the government, said: “Scandal after scandal is tumbling out since the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-II came to power.”

“We have corruption in the 2G spectrum allocation, then the Commonwealth Games and now the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society. The entire nation is ashamed of the housing scam as the land belonged to defence and the houses were meant for families of Kargil (conflict) martyrs,” Acharia said.

He was referring to the controversial 31-storeyed residential block being built in Mumbai’s upscale Colaba that was originally meant to be a six-storeyed apartment block for housing Kargil war heroes and widows.

“Those flats were given to relatives and kith and kin of some defence officers, even to some former army chiefs. How did it happen? How were all rules and regulations flouted?” the CPI-M leader asked.

Acharia said the resignation of Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan on the issue “is not enough”.

Chavan Tuesday stepped down after the Congress leadership accepted his resignation following allegations of his association with the housing society.

Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj, of the Bharatiya Janata Party, also lambasted the government for the “rampant corruption” and demanded a debate in the house to “expose the government and corruption in its schemes”.

“There is scam after scam. Since UPA-II has come to power, we have had number of scandals. I want to raise the corruption in the 2G spectrum allocation, Adarsh housing scheme and the Commonwealth Games. But believe me, the government’s road development programmes are also rocked by scams…That is a bigger scam than the 2G, Adarsh and CWG (scandals),” she claimed.

Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) demanded a joint parliamentary committee probe into the corruption allegations as “the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) is an arm of the ruling elite and cannot be trusted for fairness”.

During the proceedings, opposition members shouted slogans against the government, demanding an adjournment to pave the way for a discussion on corruption.

The parliamentary affairs minister intervened in the meantime and assured that the government was ready to discuss any issue.

He requested the speaker to take a decision on the matter and decide when to have a debate.

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