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Natwar disqualification plea meant to intimidate voters: NDA

Thursday 28 June 2007

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The National Democratic Alliance on Wednesday charged the Congress with exerting “undue influence” on voters in the Presidential election by seeking disqualification of the former External Affairs Minister, Natwar Singh, from the Rajya Sabha on the grounds that he campaigned for the Samajwadi Party in the recent Uttar Pradesh elections.

Mr. Singh was one of the signatories to Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat’s nomination papers.

At a press meet, NDA spokesperson Sushma Swaraj questioned the timing of the disqualification petition. She said it was meant to “intimidate” those who might go along with Mr. Shekhawat in the poll. An NDA proposer would approach the Election Commission against this move and seek disqualification of the United Progressive Alliance-Left nominee Pratibha Patil. Claim discounted

Discounting the Congress’ claim of filing a similar petition in May, Ms. Swaraj asserted that no such petition was filed with the Rajya Sabha Secretariat. “Such a claim was just meant to hide their fault and to put Mr. Shekhawat in the dock on a false conflict-of-interest plea.”

(Sources in the Rajya Sabha Secretariat told The Hindu that no petition seeking disqualification of Mr. Natwar Singh was received before Tuesday.)

Ms. Swaraj said the Uttar Pradesh elections were over in May and Parliament was in session till May 18 when Mr. Natwar Singh sat on the Congress benches. “The timing of the petition is important. It was filed within 24 hours of Mr. Singh signing the nomination papers of Mr. Shekhawat with the clear intention of exerting undue influence on other members.” She claimed it was an offence under the Presidential and Vice Presidential Election Act of 1952. Cites precedence

On the demand that Mr. Shekhawat resign as Vice-President, she said he was not the first Vice-President to contest. Before him, Zakir Hussain, R. Venkataraman and K.R. Narayanan had contested and they did not resign. “There is no constitutional requirement that Mr Shekhawat step down; then why is the Congress demanding it.”

On the Left parties’ charge that Mr. Shekhawat was politically dishonest by contesting as an independent despite his lifelong association with the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, Jana Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party, Ms. Swaraj said the facts spoke for themselves.

He is not a member of the BJP. He resigned when he became the Vice-President. This election is not on party symbols and he is not a member of the BJP, then why is it being said so. We would be happy if all candidates are declared independent.

Despite indications to the contrary, Ms. Swaraj said the Trinamool Congress was “100 per cent” with the NDA.

See online : The Hindu

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