‘PM should answer in LS over phone tapping’

BJP stalwart LK Advani demanded an explanation from PM Manmohan Singh’s in the LS on Monday.

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: Taking a serious note of alleged tapping of phone calls of senior politicians, BJP stalwart LK Advani demanded an explanation from Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s in the Lok Sabha on Monday.

Raking up the phone tapping issue in the Parliament, Advani said, “It is a serious matter and we would like the Prime Minister to answer our concerns.”

“The House will not be satisfied with anything else” he added.

Referring to a report on phone tapping published in a leading news publication, Advani yesterday wrote that the "outdated" Telephone Act should be scrapped on his blog titled `Is the Emergency back`.

The senior BJP leader also suggested that a new legislation be enacted to protect citizens` privacy.

Meanwhile, in view of the ruckus over the phone-tapping issue, both Houses of Parliament were adjourned till 12 noon.

Trouble erupted in Rajya Sabha soon after the Upper House assembled with BJP MPs protesting against the phone tapping issue.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Prithviraj Chavan said the government would make a statement after question hour but this did not satisfy the opposition.

Unable to restore order, Chairman Hamid Ansari adjourned the house till noon.

Phone tapping row

The fresh controversy over alleged tapping of phone calls of senior politicians stalled the smooth functioning of both the Houses since morning.

The entire opposition led by BJP accused the government agencies of secretly tapping telephones of senior politicians, which further delayed voting on budget and other key bills.

The tension comes just as the UOA government is facing the Opposition heat over spiralling inflation and rising food prices. If the government is defeated in voting over the crucial Finance Bill, it would fall.

The phone taping controversy is the latest blow for the ruling coalition that was expecting to capitalise on its re-election to promote policies to boost investment and ailing infrastructure as well as reform welfare and subsidies.

Instead, a slew of crises have distracted it, upstaging even routine parliamentary business like passing the budget and discussion on crucial reforms legislation.

A magazine report said last week that senior politicians, including two from the government, had their mobile conversations listened into, sparking allegations intelligence agencies were being used to spy upon political rivals.

The government is still to officially react to the allegation, but officials in the Prime Minister`s Office have said the matter is being looked into.
The government has already faced heavy protests over its handling of a worsening Maoist insurgency, while rising food prices and fuel price hikes had prompted the Opposition demand for a special parliamentary vote.

A probe into the popular multi-billion dollar IPL cricket league has ensnared senior politicians and billionaire businessmen in a growing scandal also hurting an already weakened Congress-led government.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee cancelled a trip to Washington for an International Monetary fund meeting last week in order to firefight and muster support for the special vote.

Some TV stations said on Sunday that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh might skip a South Asian leaders` summit in Bhutan this week in view of political developments at home. His office denied this.

The special parliamentary vote will make Congress nervous, given that two of its allies pulled out of the coalition last month to protest a controversial women`s bill. This has dangerously thinned its parliamentary support.

But most experts expect the government to win. Bond and stock markets are unaffected, with traders anticipating the government will survive.

However, the vote, plus the cricket and phone rows, has reduced the chances of the government getting key bills passed.

It is trying to pass the budget and reform legislation with a thinner majority. Among other legislation, the government is eyeing passage of a bill allowing foreign universities to set up campuses on Indian soil and another to cut its stake in the State Bank of India.

With agency inputs

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