Baalu issue rocks RS during Zero Hour

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New Delhi, Apr 28 (UNI) The issue of Shipping Minister T R Baalu's alleged misuse of position to favour companies associated with his family in gas allocation today rocked the Rajya Sabha again for most part of the Zero Hour with the opposition demanding a statement from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The government assured it would give a response later but did not commit any date.

The Opposition, which had earlier boycotted the Question Hour, returned during the Zero Hour. As soon as the Zero Hour began, Leader of the Opposition Jaswant Singh said this was the fourth consecutive day when they were forced to raise the issue.

He said the government's attitude, particularly when the Minister had himself admitted the same in the House, was of great concern specially when it (the issue) had led to the application of Section 225 (under which AIADMK leader V Maithreyan was suspended from the House). The ruling from the Chair concerned the entire House, he said.

Describing Mr Baalu as a ''friend of long-standing'', Mr Jaswant Singh said the Prime Minister's Office had written to Petroleum Minister Murli Deora eight times.

He said that for the fourth consecutive day, they had been prevented from speaking and it was a violation of their right to expression.

He said the promotion of a company in which a Minister has direct or indirect interest, did cause concern and is prohibited by Parliamentary practice.

Mr Jaswant Singh also raised the issue of the Prime Minister's Office being projected as separate from the Prime Minister. He said a Minister is responsible for the actions of his officials or his office. The two could not be separated.

He demanded that the Prime Minister make a statement on the floor of the House.

Throughout his nearly 30-minutes speech, members of the Treasury Benches raised protests but the Chair disallowed the objections.

Mr T Shiva (DMK) tried to raise a Point of Order under Section 238 which says a matter which is sub-judice, could not be discussed in the House. Since the matter was lying in the High Court, it could not be discussed.

However, Deputy Chairman Rahman Khan over-ruled him and said he (Mr Jaswant Singh) is making a statement on what the Minister had said in the House.

On not getting any response from the government, Mr Jaswant Singh was joined by his party colleagues Murli Manohar Joshi and Sushma Swaraj in demanding a response from the government.

The Deputy Chairman said he was not in a position to ask the government to respond.

After a while, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Vyalar Ravi said the Opposition's demand would be examined and a response given later.

''The Leader of Opposition has raised an issue. Definitely, the government will look into what you have said. The reponse will come later,'' Mr Ravi said.

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