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Parliamentary panel questions two BJP MPs for two hours

Special Correspondent

CNN-IBN asked to depose at next meeting on August 11

Photo: R.V. Moorthy

Bharatiya Janata Party MPs Ashok Argal (right) and Faggan Singh Kulaste after appearing before the Parliamentary committee probing the ’cash for vote’ scam at Parliament House in New Delhi on Thursday. —

NEW DELHI: Two Bharatiya Janata Party MPs – Faggan Singh Kulaste and Ashok Argal – were questioned for about two hours here on Thursday by the Kishore Chandra Deo parliamentary committee set up by the Speaker to establish the facts of the cash-for-votes scandal.

The committee has asked CNN-IBN, which conducted a sting operation, to send its representatives to appear before it at the next meeting on August 11.

Mr. Deo was unwilling to state whether the committee would or would not ask Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh and the Congress president’s political secretary Ahmed Patel to appear before it.

The committee was asked by the Speaker to complete its work by August 11. Since this will not be possible, Mr. Deo has asked for an extension till the end of this month.

Members gave differing versions of what happened on Thursday. One of them told The Hindu that many on the committee wanted to question the two BJP MPs separately so that the testimony could be cross-checked. However, two committee members – V.K. Malhotra of the BJP and Mohammad Salim of the CPI (Marxist) – defended the contention of the two MPs that they be allowed to appear together as theirs was part of a joint complaint by three MPs. The third, Mahavir Bhagora, could not appear as he had recently undergone a heart bypass surgery.

The video footage of the episode captured by hidden cameras of the television channel was played to the two MPs and they were questioned. According to one member, the MPs did not say anything about “missing footage” to the committee, but spoke to reporters about this.

However, another said the two did tell the committee that “their version” captured by “open cameras” after the sting was over was “missing.”

The question of licence number plates of the cars used in the sting also came up.

The BJP submitted a “correction” to its initial complaint, saying that the number was wrongly stated in the petition as a result of a typographical error. However, one member told The Hindu that the “correction” was issued after all committee members had viewed the tapes and were given transcripts. “They [the two MPs] have now changed the numbers of the cars to match those in the video footage, while earlier they claimed that their security staff had duly recorded the licence number plates of the cars when the man came to Mr. Argal’s house to deliver the cash,” one member said.

The Speaker’s office has forwarded 11 tapes of the episode to the committee. The BJP’s contention is that some footage taken after the man who delivered the cash went away is “missing.” In that the three MPs reportedly explain the entire operation in some detail.

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