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'Sonia Gandhi should be questioned in food-for-oil scam'

By Super

Mumbai, Apr 10: Firing a fresh salvo at Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha and senior BJP leader L K Advani today demanded that she be ''questioned'' for her party's role in the controversial 'oil-for-food ' scam.

Mr Advani, who arrived here from Gujarat on the second leg of his Bharat Suraksha Yatra, told mediapersons here that the latest revelations of the Volcker report show that the ''taint is spreading far beyond former External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh.'' Ms Gandhi owes an explanation to the nation on whether Mr Singh had written letters to the Iraqi authorities ''without her consent and prior knowledge'' and why she has still not broken her silence on the issue, even as Congress party has also been separately mentioned in the Volcker report as a ''non-contractual beneficiary'' in Iraq's food-for-oil scam, he said.

''Is it because the Congress, having made Mr Singh a scapegoat, wants to put a lid on its own involvement in the scandal?'' he asked.

The BJP leader demanded that the investigating agencies should question the Congress chief in the course of their probe. The findings of Enforcement Directorate and Pathak Commission should be made known to the people, he noted.

A case must be filed against Mr Singh and the Congress by CBI under Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act and Prevention of Corruption Act, Mr Advani said and added that this will enable the central probing agency to pursue with foreign governments, the tracking of money trail and pinpointing the end-beneficiaries.

National politics has always taken important turns when people decide to raise their voice on issues of corruption, Mr Advani said and cited the examples of Navnirman movement in Gujarat and the Bofors scandal, to justify his statement. ''Both incidents resulted in the fall of powerful Congress Governments. In a democracy, all aspects of politics are accountable,'' he observed.

He said he was not surprised at the Congress not showing any eagerness to discuss the Volcker report, the Rs 18,978 crore Scorpene submarine deal, foreign funds to Congress and Communists in Parliament. ''BJP is committed to raise these issues in Parliament and in public,'' he added.

Mr Advani alleged that in March 1996, the Income Tax department, after completing assessments of various political parties, found that Congress was the only one to have received foreign donations.

The party received Rs 3.5 crore from abroad between 1993-95, when late P V Narsimha Rao was the Prime Minister and late Sitaram Kesri was its treasurer, he noted.

He also alleged that former US Ambassador to India Daniel Patrick Moynihan had mentioned two occasions when the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) had paid money to the Congress. The first was in 1959, when the party engineered the downfall of the Communist Government in Kerala headed by E M S Namboodiripad and the second was in 1969, at the time of a split in the Congress, the BJP leader pointed out.

He further alleged that the Congress and Communists have brought ''dishonour'' to India by having a ''long and sorid record of receiving foreign funds.'' The main aim of the yatra was to make Indian democracy ''immune'' and secure from the ''entrenched culture of corruption of the Congress party, which has no qualms in taking foreign funds, '' he said.

To a question on what the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government had done to bring Ottavio Quattrocchi to India to face trial in the Bofors case, Mr Advani, who was the Deputy Prime Minister in the then NDA rule, said the Italian businessman was declared a ''fugutive'' and efforts were made to extradite him. ''First of all, he was allowed to leave India when the Congress was in power. He remained in Malaysia and despite continuous efforts, there was no success in getting him back. While in Malaysia, he is reported to have commented that he had no faith in Indian judiciary and he would not come to India. He is also reported to have said that he was a friend of Mrs Sonia Gandhi's family,'' Mr Advani said.

The BJP leader admitted that ''NDA had not met with success in even getting underworld don Dawood Ibrahim to India'' to face trial in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts case, depsite best efforts.

''The only success we achieved was in the extradition of Abu Salem, because of the extradition treaty with Portugal,'' he added.

On Election Commissioner Naveen Chawla's case, Mr Advani said the Government and Attorney general had no role to play in the case.

''The President should take a decision based on the recommendation of the Election Commission. But, the files pertaining to Mr Chawla have not reached the Chief Election Commissioner so far. We have already urged the President not to delay the matter,'' he added.


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