New Delhi Bureau

Government will respond later, says Vayalar Ravi

“Opposition not allowed to speak on the issue”

NEW DELHI: Both Houses of Parliament witnessed disruptions and walkouts by the National Democratic Alliance on Monday as it sought to raise the controversy over Union Surface Transport Minister T.R. Baalu allegedly using his office to benefit companies owned by his son.

With the Opposition keeping up its pressure, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi told the Rajya Sabha that the government would respond to the issue later.

While Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee refused to allow the issue to be taken up — resulting in disruption of Question Hour for 35 minutes and subsequent walkout by the NDA during zero hour — the Opposition had its say in the Rajya Sabha after considerable protest.

In the Upper House, the NDA was joined by the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in staging a walkout during question hour in protest against not being allowed to raise the matter. Raising it later, Leader of Opposition Jaswant Singh said promotion of a company in which a Minister or a member of his family had direct interest “causes concern.”

Describing it as “conflict of interest,” which is prohibited by Parliamentary practice, Mr. Singh said the PMO wrote eight times to the Petroleum Ministry on this issue. “The Prime Minister’s conduct is involved.

To say that the office of the Prime Minister does not mean the Prime Minister is curious. The PMO is a direct extension of the Prime Minister’s responsibility. We want a reply from the Prime Minister.”

Alleging that the Opposition was not allowed to speak on the issue, the BJP leader said the right of expression should be uniform in the House. Asserting that the BJP had nothing to do with the matter, he said Tamil Nadu politics went through frequent changes. “Those with us go against us and those with us today may not be with us day after tomorrow. But in this case the Minister said in the House that he wrote to the Petroleum Minister. We maintain this is a conflict of interest and a matter of grave concern,” he said.

AIADMK leader Maitreyan also rued that he was prevented from speaking on the issue. He demanded that the Prime Minister explain the matter at the earliest.

Later, responding to questions at the party’s routine briefing, Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said the PMO had merely forwarded the requests made by Mr. Baalu “officially” and there was no endorsement of his case.

More In: Today's Paper