Neena Vyas

NEW DELHI: The government on Tuesday assured the Rajya Sabha that it would make a statement on Wednesday in response to persistent demands that it clarify its position on the T.R. Baalu issue.

Opposition demand

The issue was raised by Bharatiya Janata Party deputy leader Sushma Swaraj and the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. A categorical assurance was demanded from the government when it would respond.

The Opposition has repeated its demand over several days that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh “clarify” after the Minister for Shipping and Surface Transport himself admitted that he had sought allotment of natural gas for a company owned by his son and which he headed earlier.

The government has reportedly decided that the Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Murli Deora would make the statement. It was categorical that the Prime Minister would not react as it was Mr. Deora’s Ministry that had all the facts of the case.

Stepping out of Parliament House, Mr. Deora told some journalists that “there was no nepotism involved.” He pointed out that every day MPs and Ministers received various requests from people. “If somebody tells me this is a question of 2,000 people losing their jobs, I will call my officers to find what the truth is and who can help [prevent the loss of jobs].”

PM duty-bound to make statement: Advani

Leader of the Opposition L.K. Advani, speaking at the BJP parliamentary party meeting, said the Prime Minister was “duty-bound” to make a statement on the subject. “Firstly, he cannot shirk his responsibility over misdeeds of a member of his Cabinet. Secondly, he is answerable for the actions of the Prime Minister’s Office [which had allegedly sent several reminders to the Ministry of Petroleum asking it to “expedite” the case.]

Mr. Advani said while “the Prime Minister’s personal integrity is beyond doubt, it is now equally beyond doubt that he is neither able nor trying to enforce probity in his government…”

Separately, in response to a question, Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan said the PMO had “only forwarded the letters” and “there was nothing inappropriate in doing that.”