Show-cause notice issued, given two weeks time
NEW DELHI: The Congress on Tuesday night suspended the former External Affairs Minister, Natwar Singh, from primary membership of the party and decided to serve a show-cause notice asking him to explain why he should not be expelled.
The party's disciplinary action committee, which met for nearly 75 minutes, concluded that Mr. Natwar Singh brought "disrepute" to the party by his conduct. Announcing this, senior leaders Pranab Mukherjee and A.K. Antony said Mr. Natwar Singh had misused his position as leader of a Congress delegation to Iraq in January 2001 by furthering the commercial interests of his son Jagat Singh's cousin, Andaleep Sehgal, for his company, Hamdaan Exports. The party said Mr. Natwar Singh had expanded a Congress delegation (to Iraq) by including Mr. Jagat Singh and Mr. Sehgal without authorisation from Congress president Sonia Gandhi and even without her knowledge.
Mr. Natwar Singh, as chairman of the party's foreign affairs department, led the delegation to Iraq during the Saddam Hussein regime.
Mr. Mukherjee said: "Mr. Natwar Singh in the recent weeks has been indulging [in] and carrying [out] a propaganda against the party and bought the party to disrepute and on these counts the decision was taken to suspend him."
He said Mr. Natwar Singh would get two weeks from the time of receipt of the show-cause notice to respond. He said suspension was not the final punishment and the disciplinary committee would wait for the suspended leader's version.
Asked about Mr. Natwar Singh's status in the parliamentary party, Mr. Mukherjee said there was a separate constitution for the body and this case would be dealt with as per the provisions. Asked whether Mr. Natwar Singh would be allowed to speak in the House, Mr. Mukherjee said the presiding officer would decide that.
The disciplinary action committee met under the chairmanship of Mr. Antony and was attended by Mr. Mukherjee, Sushil Kumar Shinde and Motilal Vohra; all the leaders were present at the late night press conference, where the decision was announced.
For the last two days the mood in the party had been sullen ever since Mr. Natwar Singh gave notice of privilege against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the Rajya Sabha for "leakage" of the report of the Justice Pathak Inquiry Authority, which indicted him in the Iraqi oil-for-food programme.
The party said earlier in the day that it had taken a serious view of Mr. Natwar Singh's utterances and of the letters he wrote purportedly on behalf of the party, which were quoted in full by the Pathak Authority.