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Natwar Singh quits Congress

Last Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2008 - 00:00

Jaipur, Feb 13: Former External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh, who had to resign from the government in the wake of the Iraqi food-for-oil scam, on Wednesday announced his resignation from Congress but parried questions whether he planned to join the BJP.
He made the announcement in the presence of Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia at a BJP-sponsored Jat rally in Vidyadhar Nagar, 20 km from here, and soon after launched a blistering attack on Sonia Gandhi.

"Wait and see" was all that he would reply to questions on whether he would join the BJP or whether he expects to get a BJP seat to parliament as his term in Rajya Sabha is coming to an end shortly.

Singh, suspended from the party and facing a petition for his disqualification from Rajya Sabha, quit the Manmohan Singh govt after the Volcker Committee findings in the UN oil-for-food scam.

The Pathak Inquiry Authority, set up to go into the findings, found that he had used his position to get oil contracts from the Saddam Hussein regime for his son`s friend Andaleeb Sehgal. However, the authority said Singh did not personally benefit from the deal.

A few months later he was suspended from the party while his son Jagat Singh, an MLA in Rajasthan, was expelled. His case is being dealt with by the congress disciplinary action committee.

With Singh hobnobbing with the Samajwadi Party during the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections last year, the party also filed a petition before the Rajya Sabha chairman seeking his disqualification.

The Congress contended that Singh`s actions amount to voluntarily giving up the party membership, a basis for action under the anti-defection law. Singh`s membership in the Rajya
Sabha ends in April this year.

77-year-old Singh, who quit the Foreign Service to contest the Lok Sabha elections successfully in 1984, became a minister of state in the Rajiv Gandhi government and later was made a cabinet minister in the Manmohan Singh government.

Asked by reporters after his address at the rally whether he was joining the BJP, he merely said "wait and watch" but made it clear he would work against the Congerss in the assembly elections in the state later this year.

He gave a similar reply when asked whether he was expecting any ticket from the BJP.

To a question why he took this step "so late", Singh said "this is the first step I have taken after considering a lot of aspects".

He said congress was not the same as it was during the period of Nehru and Gandhi (Indira).

"Sonia Gandhi is going to ruin the party. Congress has lost many elections including in Gujarat. She does not understand the difference between Ramayan and Mahabharat. How can she lead a nation," he asked.

Speaking at the rally organised in memory of Maharaj Surajmal, a former ruler of Bharatpur, Singh said Jats (who comprise a backward community) were more committed to the region than any "outsider", an apparent potshot at Sonia Gandhi.

He said today (Surajmal`s Jayanti) was a special occasion and that was why he resigned from the Congress today.

Bureau Report

First Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2008 - 00:00
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