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House panel to see video footage

Neena Vyas

NEW DELHI: The parliamentary committee, set up by Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee to look into allegations of payment of cash to get votes during the trust vote on July 22, is scheduled to view on August 4 the video footage of an alleged sting operation by a television channel.

This was decided at the first meeting of the committee, headed by Kishore Chandra Deo, on Wednesday.

The tapes are in the custody of Lok Sabha Secretary General P.D.T. Achary. CNN-IBN handed them over to the Speaker on July 23.

The Wednesday meeting was attended by five members – Mr. Deo of the Congress, BJP’s deputy leader in the Lok Sabha V.K. Malhotra, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Mohammad Salim, D.P. Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Ram Gopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party. The other two members – C. Kuppusami of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Rajesh Verma of the Bahujan Samaj Party – were not present.

While one member, who did not want to be named, said the committee took a “unanimous decision” to view the tapes on August 4, another said some on the panel wanted first to listen to the petitioners – BJP MPs Ashok Argal, Mahavir Bhagora and Faggan Singh Kulaste – who had written to the Speaker, saying they were offered bribes to vote in favour of the confidence motion.

Mr. Deo told The Hindu that it was decided to adopt the procedures and methodology used to look into the cash-for-questions scandal. The three BJP MPs would be asked to present themselves before the committee on a mutually convenient date to answer any questions the panel members may have.

Asked whether Mr. Malhotra had raised the question of expanding the committee as publicly demanded by the NDA, Mr. Deo said: “That is between Mr. Malhotra and the Speaker. The question was neither raised nor discussed.”

A committee member said it was important to view the tapes first as that would help them to put the right questions to the three MPs. “We will interrogate them, cross-examine them and seek clarifications.”

To help the committee complete its task speedily, the Lok Sabha Secretariat will help establish simple facts such as who owns the cars mentioned in the petition, and in whose names they are registered.

Later, Mr. Malhotra said he would meet the Speaker on Thursday to place before him the NDA’s demand of expanding the panel.

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