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July 31, 2001
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PM resorting to emotional blackmail, says Shiv Sena MP

An Indian lawmaker whose allegations apparently prompted Atal Bihari Vajpayee to offer his resignation Tuesday has accused the prime minister of resorting to emotional blackmail.

Sanjay Nirupam alleged in Parliament that some officials in Vajpayee's office had pressurised the former chief of the state-owned Unit Trust of India to advance money to some dubious companies.

The UTI is now at the heart of a raging scandal after it announced a freeze on redemptions of its flagship US-64 scheme for the remainder of the year, hitting hard some 20 million middle class families.

Nirupam is a member of the Shiv Sena, one of the key allies of Vajpayee's ruling National Democratic Alliance. It was his allegation on Monday that stung the prime minister.

The Shiv Sena MP said: "On July 18, 2000, then UTI chairman P S Subramanyam phoned three people in New Delhi. These were mobile phone numbers and I can state with certainty that one number is registered in the Prime Minister's Office."

Nirupam said, "I have not questioned the credibility of the prime minister. I still believe he is an honest person. I have respect for him. But what about people in the PMO who are close to him?"

Vajpayee, he continued, should conduct a thorough probe and book the culprit.

"This is all I have demanded. What is the need for all this resignation drama? How does his resignation help in setting the UTI fiasco in order?"

He should continue as prime minister and fight corruption instead of running away from the battlefield, Nirupam said.

Drawing parallels with the Congress Party, he said, "Questions were raised about some close aides of (party president) Sonia Gandhi. Take, for instance, the corruption charges against her private secretary V George. Gandhi did not resign. Instead she said, 'Let the matter be probed'."

"I hope our prime minister will pursue the matter to its logical end and restore the confidence of the 20 million investors who have been adversely hit by the UTI scandal," Nirupam added.

He has no regrets about speaking against the government though.

"What's wrong if I have questioned the role of the prime minister's office and the finance minister. Yes, we are a ruling partner, but that doesn't mean we should not speak out the truth."

"How can the finance minister disown responsibility? It is not enough to say UTI is an autonomous body. The finance minister will have to share the blame for the UTI mess," he emphasised.

Indo-Asian News Service

The UTI Crisis


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