Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan on Wednesday referred the video, that showed several Trinamool Congress leaders in West Bengal allegedly accepting money in return for lobbying for a private company, to an ethics committee for investigation. The Left parties have called the sting operation by a private news portal a TMC-BJP match fixing ahead of Assembly elections in the state.
The 15-member Ethics Committee headed by BJP's LK Advani includes Arjun Meghwal, Kariya Munda (both BJP), B. Mahtab (Biju Janata Dal), Ninong Ering (Congress) and Akshay Yadav (Samajwadi Party), IANS reported.
"This is a huge BJP-TMC match fixing," Sitaram Yechury told reporters outside Parliament. Yechury said TMC will try minority appeasement, while BJP will consolidate the Hindu votes by working in tandem. "It's not about targeting anyone. It's about upholding the integrity and dignity of Rajya Sabha," he said.
S. Yechury: It is to uphold integrity & dignity of RS.Why did u refer Mallya case to ethics cmmittee but silent now? pic.twitter.com/LT5Xk4m01w— ANI (@ANI_news) March 16, 2016
The Ethics Committee will submit its report after examining all the facts. According to Rule 233 B of the Constitution, if a matter is raised in House then it is empowered to refer the matter to committee on ethics. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan made the announcement immediately after the Question Hour, a day after BJP, Congress and CPI-M came together in Parliament to attack the accused TMC members and demanding a probe into the matter.
An ethics committee in 2005 had terminated the membership of 11 MPs, 10 from the Lok Sabha and one from the Rajya Sabha, after finding them guilty after a sting operation allegedly showing them accepting bribes to help fictitious private firms.
Saugata Roy of TMC strongly protested the Speaker's decision, saying it was a "unilateral decision" and if it becomes a practice, then anybody will do a sting against members and inquiry would be ordered on such "unverified" contents. However, he also said he had full respect for Advani and added that the veteran BJP member will be fair.
The Speaker, however, brushed aside his objections, saying such a reference to the 15-member Ethics Committee had been made earlier too.
Meanwhile, CPI(M) members created uproar in Rajya Sabha over the sting, and demanded a Joint Parliamentary to Committee (JPC) probe the "very serious" matter.
As soon as the listed papers were laid and the Zero Hour began, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said there were two notices on the issue, but these have not been admitted by the Chairman. Kurien, however, allowed Derek O'Brien (TMC) and Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) to speak on the issue.
Rubbishing the allegations, Derek said first of all it should be checked if the person who carried out the sting operation was a journalist and questioned the authenticity of the video.
"The sting...its credibility needs to be checked," he said, alleging foreign money was coming to India from Dubai just before the elections in West Bengal.
"Why is the government not ordering an investigation? It looks like they are also complicit...," Yechury said.
As protests by the Left party continued in the Well seeking a JPC probe into the video, Kurien said CPI(M) members "have a reputation of not coming into the Well of the House, and now they are breaking the tradition."
Yechury said the Chair had referred the Vijay Mallya case to the Ethics Committee and asked why it cannot be done in this case.
Kurien replied: "At that time the House was unanimous. Now the House is divided" as one side believes the video and the other says it is doctored.
During almost the entire Zero Hour, CPI(M) members kept raising slogans from the Well of the House. Amid din, some other members raised their Zero Hour mentions.
(With inputs from agencies)
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