Saturday, April 26, 2008

Baalu controversy: RS adjourned; Jaya demands PM's resignation Thursday, April 24, 2008

New Delhi: The issue of Shipping Minister T R Baalu allegedly asking GAIL to provide gas to companies with which his family was associated today snowballed, leading to adjournment of the Rajya Sabha for the day, while AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for ''aiding and abetting'' him. During the Question Hour in the Upper House of Parliament, AIADMK member V Maitreyan was asked by Chairman Hamid Ansari to leave the House after the AIADMK member repeatedly disrupted the proceedings on the issue. The Rajya Sabha plunged into pandemonium today for nearly 90 minutes in the post-lunch session after which it was adjourned for the day with the opposition BJP and SP members vociferously demanding revocation of the eviction of the member.

The Chairman of the Rajya Sabha said,''I have witnessed a situation I have never witnessed before. A senior member of the House is deliberately violating procedures. Under the relevant Rules of the House, the Chair may direct any member who in his opinion is violating. I am invoking this rule against the member.'' Thereafter, the AIADMK member left the House which then carried on with its normal business.

Yesterday too, the AIADMK member had raised the issue in the House. Dr Maitreyan alleged that the minister had 'armtwisted' the ONGC and GAIL for favouring the companies 'Kings India Chemicals' and 'King Chemicals and Kings High Power' with which his family was linked. He claimed that 'Kings India' was on the 2004 list o Tamil Nadu bank defaulters and urged the Prime Minister to come clean on the matter.

Mr Baalu then said he was the managing director of the two companies before becoming a minister. The companies, he said, were referred to BIFR and its employees and shareholders were in trouble. ''In 1999, Kings High Power had entered into an agreement with GAIL for the supply of 10,000 cubic metres of gas to it. But the gas company went back on its word as part of revenge taken by the NDA government and the BJP as I quit the alliance in 2003,'' Mr Baalu said. ''The employees and shareholders approached me with the problem.

I then put in a word with the petroleum minister for supplying gas to the ailing company. I was trying to save the company. What is wrong in it,'' he asked. Meanwhile, in a statement in Chennai today, Ms Jayalalithaa sought Mr Baalu's sacking and demanded the resignation of Dr Singh for ''aiding and abetting'' him in ''arm-twisting'' the Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry.

She alleged that never before had such a grave charge been levelled against a Prime Minister who had not reacted to the reports in this regard in a section of the media.

Quoting reports, she said Mr Baalu had arm-twisted the Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry over the past two years to provide gas from the Cauvery basin to two companies, Kings India Power Corporation and Kings India Chemical Corporation, owned by his two sons T R B Rajkumar and T R B Selvakumar.

''Interestingly, Mr Baalu's two wives, Ms Porkodi and Ms Renuka Devi, hold huge stakes in these companies'', she also alleged.

Ms Jayalalithaa said this was a grave charge of misuse of office, nepotism and corruption relating to Mr Baalu's tenure as Union Minister of state for Petroleum and Natural Gas during 1996-98.

''Not only is there a documented charge that the Union Minister was indulging in nepotism and corruption, there is also a charge with proof that has not been refuted that the Prime Minister is actively aiding and abetting this crime'', she alleged.

Dr Singh was according ''unequal treatment'' by bending rules to favour a Cabinet Minister merely because that Minister's party was necessary for his government to continue in power, she alleged.

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