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Fernandes demand on `tainted' Ministers rejected

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, JUNE 10. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary, Harkishan Singh Surjeet, today suggested that the National Democratic Alliance Convener, George Fernandes, "publicly accept" that the previous NDA government's stand on fight against corruption and criminals was "wrong."

A day after Mr. Fernandes wrote to Mr. Surjeet, the Marxist leader responded by stating that he was "happy that there is a belated realisation on your part that the Council of Ministers must be kept free from corrupt and criminal elements. I wish, however, that you as the Convener of the NDA, had been conscious of this need when the NDA was in government.''

Mr. Surjeet reminded the former Defence Minster that Parliament was repeatedly held up demanding the removal of three former Union Ministers who were charge-sheeted in the Babri Masjid demolition case and in the Tehelka tapes affair. Neither were the three Ministers, including the then Home Minister, removed nor was a first information report lodged against those seen taking money in the Tehelka tapes, he said.

"If your current realisation to fight corrupt and criminal elements is to have any credibility I hope you will publicly accept that the stance of the NDA government in the above matters was wrong. Such a step would help in mobilising all sections in public life to take a firm stand against both corruption and criminalisation in politics," he said.

In a related development, the CPI(M) parliamentary party leaders, Basudeb Acharia and Nilotpal Basu, criticised the attitude of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA Opposition and said it owed an explanation to the nation why these parties did not allow any discussion on the motion of thanks to the President's Address.

Describing the move of adopting the motion without any debate as "unprecedented," the leaders said it clearly showed that NDA was reluctant to accept the verdict of the people.

They said the reluctance and disruptions in Parliament was a "challenge" to democracy and a "betrayal of voters."

"True that no single party got the mandate to form the government... one aspect was clear that the NDA-led government had to go," Mr. Basu said, adding that "despite the mandate, the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, has said that his party was going to make a comeback within six months, while the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, L.K. Advani, has said that the result of the recent general elections was a vote for continuity. We do not know what is their calculation."

Asked about the party's stand, he said that while they were not in favour of having chargesheeted members in the Council of Ministers, it was the prerogative of the Prime Minister to pick his team.

He also said while in the opposition, the CPI(M) had raised the issue of including chargesheeted Ministers within the system and had adopted a tactic of boycotting George Fernandes, since the latter had resigned from the Cabinet after Tehelka and promised to stay away till the probe was over, but came back much before the task was completed.

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