My replacement in parliament debate engineered: Shourie

Sunday, November 28, 2010

NEW DELHI - Bharatiya Janata Party leader (BJP) Arun Shourie Sunday said that there was “no doubt” that vested interests secured his removal as the lead speaker for his party in the debate on the 2009-10 budget, as mentioned in a taped conversation of corporate lobbyist Nira Radia.

Shourie, a former communications minister, made the claim in an interview to Karan Thapar broadcast on CNN-IBN Sunday, when asked about a conversation between Radia and a speaker, where the latter claims that he engineered the replacement of Shourie with former BJP president M.Venkaiah Naidu in order to favour Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) chairman Mukesh Ambani.

Asked whether this was how events had panned out in 2009, Shourie said: “Yes, there is no doubt in that.”

“I was asked to open the debate on the budget. I worked for one week to speak on the matter and at the last minute, after I reached the house I was told that the previous night, Mr Venkaiah Naidu had decided to speak suddenly. Therefore, as he had been party president, he will speak first.”

Shourie said that that it was certainly clear from the tapes that the main aim for the last-minute replacement was for the BJP not to go strongly against a budget proposal which would favour RIL.

“Yes, it was certainly their objective, I mean its clear from the tapes that was the objective. They may have apprehended this because I had spoken about that particular proposal in an adverse way in a party meeting…I may or may not have spoken about this on the floor of the house,” he said.

Shourie then identified the voice on the tape conversing with Radia as “my good college friend N.K. Singh”, referring to the former revenue secretary and now a Janata Dal-United MP in the Rajya Sabha.

Naidu denied the charges. “There is no question of favouring anybody,” Naidu told the channel.

Tapes containing Radia’s conversations with former communications and IT minister A. Raja and some industrialists and journalists have been submitted in court as part of evidence in a public interest litigation over the 2G spectrum allotment row.

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