NCP MLAs offered Rs 20 mn for defection
By Raman Swamy
August 5: Union minister Pramod Mahajan was very clear when he said that the Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra could not split as only six MLAs were willing to leave it and not eight which is the required number to bypass the anti-defection bill.
Did Pramod Mahajan also know that huge sums of money along with ministerial inducements and MLCships were offered to these NCP MLAs to split from their party and join the Shiv Sena-BJP combine to form an alternative government in the state by bringing down the Vilasrao Deshmukh-led government in Maharashtra?
The question is being asked in political circles after media reports from Mumbai have revealed that NCP MLAs were offered Rs 20 million plus to defect from the NCP and join the government. The Mumbai newspaper has given the names of the NCP MLAs who were offered bribes, it has named the sums of money offered.
Reports of horse-trading has created a storm in Maharashtra Assembly. The state government ordered a CID probe into allegations made by a Mumbai newspaper that seven MLAs of the NCP had been offered bribes to resign from their party.
The seven angry MLAs denied the allegations and moved a breach of privilege motion in the House, asking it to probe the allegations.
Maharashtra's deputy chief minister, and NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal has instituted a CID probe into the matter. Speaking on the controversy, Bhujbal said, "Horse trading does take place. I believe that horse trading is wrong. Public figures taking bribes is wrong. Both the giver and taker of bribes are guilty. The House privilege committee cannot investigate this and it should be probed by the CID. The house also feels that the CID should investigate this matter. Later, action can be taken against the guilty."
Bhujbal has also allegedly said that there were reports circulating in the Vidhan Bhavan that the MLAs were offered huge sums to lure them to switch loyalties.
There were reports circulating in the Vidhan Bhavan for the entire week that the MLAs were offered huge sums to lure them to switch loyalties, Bhujbal, who also holds the home portfolio said while announcing a CID probe into the matter. Later talking to reporters Bhujbal, however, clarified that the inquiry was not against the media but into the reports of MLAs' defection. Refusing to elaborate on the time-frame of the probe, he said it would be completed within a month's time.
Earlier, Anil Babar (NCP) along with five other MLAs of his party moved a breach of privilege motion in the House saying the news with their photographs and a report of being offered Rs 20 million, ministerial berth and membership of legislative council was "damaging and defaming".
"The report has damaged our reputation as legislators and if proved correct, I will resign from the membership of this House," a visible agitated Babar said. He was supported by Narsingh Patil, Gotiram Pawar, Popatrao Gawde and others-whose photographs appeared on the front page of the paper.
Interestingly the former chief minister and Shiv Sena leader Narayan Rane has supported the breach of privilege motion of NCP MLAs instead of the CID probe. Leader of opposition Narayan Rane said during each session of state legislature such reports are being published by media on a regular basis. The newspapers were defaming the legislators and were worried about their sale instead of damage being done to the members of the house, he said.
These reports are harming the credibility of the opposition, Rane said and urged Bhujbal to order a CID probe and make its finding public within a week. However, Rane, who supported the demand for an inquiry into the report by the home ministry, however, changed his stance after the session was over.
He told reporters that it was true that he had demanded an inquiry into the report of alleged bribe offered for defection by NCP members but Bhujbal had no "moral right" to institute a CID probe as he himself had been a defector.
The DF ruling coalition, comprising Congress and NCP, the two main partners, did not have any "moral authority" to talk about defections as it was NCP president Sharad Pawar who had "stabbed in the back" the then chief minister Vasantdada Patil to form a "government of defectors" in July 1978, Rane alleged.
Asked if he would cooperate in the inquiry announced by Bhujbal, the Shiv Sena leader and former chief minister shot back saying, "How am I concerned ?" He said in a democratic structure any member of any party can talk to anybody. "If one third of NCP members join us, we will topple this government," Rane said.
Rural development minister, RR Patil said a probe must be ordered as who was offering huge amounts to these legislators. He said "the chief ministership of this state was not so cheap that it could be bought by any one".
Those offering bribes to MLAs must be unmasked saying reports to these effect were "painful" for them. Keeping in view the sentiments of the house, Bhujbal then announced a CID probe into the matter. Later, he told mediapersons the report would be tabled in the House, if demanded by any member, and allowed by the speaker during the next session of the state legislature. The speaker admitted the breach of privilege motion saying it would be handed over to the privileges committee of the house.
Summing up the discussion in the House, chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said attempts to dislodge the government by circulating reports that ruling party MLAs were switching sides must be investigated into. The government installed by democratic means should not be allowed to fall due to horse-trading, he emphasised