President clears ‘Profit’ Bill
UPA government heaves a sigh of relief

New Delhi, August 18
Much to the relief of the Congress-led UPA government, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam today gave his assent to the controversial office of profit Bill, which had been passed by Parliament for the second time without changes.

The danger of disqualification, weighing down heavily on the heads of 40 MPs, was now over.

The anxiously awaited assent came a day after the government constituted a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to define what constituted an office of profit.

The legislation exempted 56 posts from the ambit of the office of profit, including the UPA’s National Advisory Council, the Uttar Pradesh Development Council, the Sriniketan Santiniketan Development Authority, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, the Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanams Board, the Krishak Bharti Cooperative Limited, the Auroville Foundation, the Delhi Rural Development Board, the Dr Ambedkar Foundation, the All-India Council of Sports and the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts.

The Opposition as well as some Left MPs protested yesterday against the constitution of the JPC on the ground that it amounted to impropriety.

The BJP-led Opposition walked out of the Lok Sabha to register its protest.

During his meeting with Dr Kalam at the Independence Day reception at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was believed to have conveyed his government’s desire for early presidential assent to the Bill.

The Election Commission today asked for the comments of Trinamool Congress leader Mukul Roy on the information submitted by the West Bengal Government on the office of profit issue.

Mr Roy had sought the disqualification of Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and nine other CPM MPs on the office of profit issue.

The commission had given time till August 25 to the Trinamool Congress leader to file his reply.

The West Bengal Government had earlier refused to part with the information, but shared the specific details sought by the quasi-judicial poll panel.

This issue now fell by the wayside, with the President giving his assent to the Bill.

Sources dismissed speculation that Dr Kalam had been considering putting in his papers as he believed that there should be no ad hoc approach in judging offices of profit.

The sources said Dr Kalam was acutely aware of his constitutional obligations and the question of not giving his assent to the Bill after Parliament considered it afresh as suggested by him did not arise.

It was a matter of time before the President gave his assent as he was not known to delay matters, the sources said.

The government might have to make Amendments for the legislation to stand the scrutiny of the court, they added. 

Cabinet clears Office of Profit Bill
22 Jul, 2006
NEW DELHI: Government on Saturday decided to bring the controversial Office of Profit bill in Parliament, returned by the President for reconsideration, next week without any changes. 

Announcing the decision after a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Parliamentary Affairs Minister PR Dasmunsi said the bill will first come before the Rajya Sabha on July 25. 

Alongwith the fresh bill, government will also bring a motion in response to President APJ Abdul Kalam's message appealing to Parliament to reconsider. 

The Prime Minister will meet President APJ Abdul Kalam later Saturday to apprise him of the Cabinet decision. 

The Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Amendment Bill passed by the Lok Sabha on May 16 and the Rajya Sabha the following day provides for exclusion of 56 posts including that of National Advisory Council (NAC) Chairperson from the purview of offices of profit. 

The Bill was sent to the President for his assent on May 25. But Kalam sent back to Parliament with a message that it should be reconsidered for a "comprehensive and generic" criteria. 

Dasmunsi said that since Parliament session starts on Monday and because Rajya Sabha was the final House to pass it, the message would be brought to the Upper House first. Since Rajya Sabha will adjourn on the opening day on July 24 after obituary reference, the message is likely to be read out in Rajya Sabha the next day, he said. 

He also said that MPs would respond to the message as they feel and equally it was the duty of the government to respond to the motion. 

While returning the Bill, the President had wanted that the criteria should be "fair and reasonable" and applicable in a "clear and transparent" manner across the states and Union Territories. 

Another important point the President had raised was in relation to the posts sought to be exempted by the new law. 

The implication was that the names of offices, for which petitions already pending under process by the competent authority should be addressed by Parliament while reconsidering the bill. 

Replying to questions, Dasmunsi said the President is the highest respected institution and his message should be respected and debated maintaining dignity of office.

Parliament approves Bill on office of profit 
New Delhi, May 17
Parliament has approved a bill that provides for exempting 56 posts, including the Chairperson of National Advisory Council, from being considered office of profit with the Rajya Sabha today passing the Bill amid a walkout by the BJP.

The Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Amendment Bill, 2006, seeking to amend the 1959 Act, was passed by the Rajya Sabha after a division, with 109 voting in favour and three against. The division was pressed by Trinamool Congress member Dinesh Trivedi after BJP members staged a walkout. 

The Bill had been passed by the Lok Sabha yesterday. 

Replying to the spirited debate on the Bill, Law Minister H. R. Bharadwaj said the government had tried for consensus on the Bill which was in “public good.” Responding to members demand for definition of what constitutes an office of profit, Mr Bhardwaj said no definition could be coined without a constitutional amendment. 

Mr Bhardwaj, who had heated arguments with the BJP members during reply to the debate, said it was wrong to assume that the Bill was intended to benefit MPs from Left parties and Treasury benches. He said several posts, including that of Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission, parliamentary party whips and some chairmen of national commissions had earlier been exempted from being considered office of profit.

Referring to the case of Ms Jaya Bachchan, Mr Bhardwaj said no member of House should be disqualified. He said “ways and means” could have been found had the matter pertaining to Ms Jaya Bachchan been brought to his notice when it was being heard by the Election Commission. He said the opposition should not cast aspersion on the members’ integrity by mentioning corruption in the context of “office of profit” debate. 

Earlier, participating in the debate Mr Dinesh Trivedi said that the Bill sought to “change the course of law and favour a few people.” He said the Bill should be taken to the committee of Ethics as it “compromises the dignity of the House.”

BJP leader Atun Jaitley said the Bill was an “exercise to protect” some MPs for holding offices of profit.

He charged the Left parties with having common interest in getting the Bill passed as several of the offices sought to be exempted in the Bill had some “West Bengal connection.” He said the Bill had something to do with preserving the government and a common factor was that almost every post sought to be exempted had a face behind it.

A vindication for Sonia 
Lucknow, May 11
For Congress President Sonia Gandhi it was a vindication of her decision to resign from the Lok Sabha on the office-of-profit controversy. 

The family citadel of Rae Bareli returned her to Parliament on Thursday with a record margin of 4,17,888 votes. The remaining 15 candidates in the fray lost their deposits.

Though Ms Gandhi’s victory in the byelection had been predicted much before the formal electoral process began, what left her detractors red in the face was the magnitude of victory.

She surpassed her previous margin of 2,40,000 votes in the 2004 general election by 1,77,888 votes.

This despite the fact that a mere 42.3 per cent polling had taken place, somewhat dampening the hopes of the Congress on the day of polling on May 8.

Establishing a record of sorts, the Congress president cornered 70.82 per cent of the total 5.90 lakh votes polled. The remaining less than 30 per cent of votes were shared by 15 candidates.

The ruling Samajwadi Party candidate Raj Kumar Chaudhury, who came a distant second, polled a mere 57,003 votes.

Firebrand BJP leader Vinay Katiyar could muster only 19,657 votes, claiming third position.

Uma Bharti-backed Apna Dal candidate Prabha Singh Lodh was nowhere in the picture. She came sixth by polling only 6,200 votes —even less than two Independents. 

As soon as the trends became available early this morning, enthused Congress workers took to the streets singing and dancing to the beats of drums.

The constituency wore a festive look as workers greeted each other. Rahul and Priyanka, with beaming faces, moved atop an open vehicle accepting greetings from supporters. Robert Vadra completed the happy family picture.

Rahul, who had slogged as the campaign manager, gave all credit to “the people of Rae Bareli”. He attributed the scale of victory to the Congress cadre.

“It is the victory of my mother’s dedication to her constituency and I would like to thank the party workers as well as people of Rae Bareli for once again reposing their faith in my mother in such a big way,” Rahul asserted.

Mother’s election agent Priyanka, who could barely contain her happiness, gave credit to her brother for the unprecedented success.

“All credit goes to my brother Rahul, who really worked very hard, went from door to door, canvassing for our mother,” she remarked.

Rahul returned to Rae Bareli to rejoice with his team. On the last day of the campaign, he had been asked to leave the constituency by the Election Commission.

Sonia Gandhi quits Lok Sabha
* Also resigns as NAC chief * To contest again from Rae Bareli

New Delhi, March 23
Stung by the Election Commission report on the Jaya Bachchan disqualification issue and reminiscent of the time when she steered clear of the office of the Prime Minister, Congress President Sonia Gandhi sought to push an aggressive Opposition on the backfoot by resigning as Chairperson of the UPA's overarching National Advisory Council as well her seat in the Lok Sabha representing the Rae Bareli constituency in Uttar Pradesh.

Preferring the high moral ground that she was not in politics for personal gains but to better the lot of the people at large, Mrs Gandhi has managed to save herself from a potentially embarrassing situation even as Congressmen of all hues and shades were eulogising her sacrifice once again.

The Congress-led UPA had pushed itself to the wall over the last 48 hours following the retrospective disqualification of actor Jaya Bachchan as a member of the Rajya Sabha with the BJP in the vanguard of the NDA stepping up the ante that President A P J Abdul Kalam cannot adopt a different yardstick in referring their petition against Mrs Gandhi to the Election Commission. 

What made matters worse for the Manmohan Singh government was the unprecedented adjournment of both Houses of Parliament Sine Die yesterday on the ground that there was no pending government business which fuelled speculation that an Ordinance was round the corner. 

In a brief statement to mediapersons this afternoon after sending her resignation as UPA Chairperson to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and as a member of the Lok Sabha to Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, Mrs Gandhi regretted that an atmosphere had been created over the past 48 hours to give an impression that the government and Parliament were “being misused for my cause only.”

The Speaker has accepted Mrs Gandhi's resignation.

Speaking in Hindi, she said these accusations have caused her great hurt as "she was in public life not for any personal gains but for serving the people of this country and protect its secular character. In keeping with my public life and principles and according to my own belief, I have resigned as a member of the Lok Sabha and Chairperson of the NAC.”

While expressing confidence in the people of Rae Bareli who had reposed faith in her, Mrs Gandhi had no doubt that the people of the country would understand her feelings. Mrs Gandhi said she would contest from Rae Bareli again.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh explained that all options were open on the issue of promulgating an Ordinance on redefining the office of profit.

BJP spokespersons Arun Jaitley and Ravi Shankar Prasad stressed that the super Prime Minister of the UPA government had caved in to intense Opposition pressure. The government is solely to blame for mishandling the situation compelling Mrs Gandhi to made an ignominious exit. 

Senior ministers said Mrs Gandhi after intense consultations and having given the matter great thought with the immediate family felt that a proposed Ordinance or any other measure should not be viewed as benefiting her individually though there were several instances of Members of Parliament across the political spectrum seemingly falling within the ambit of holding an office of profit.

It is evident that the talk of an Ordinance on which the opinion in the Congress was divided will have to take a back seat now. The Left parties had also expressed their strong reservation in taking the Ordinance route and suggested that the issue be discussed on floor of Parliament for which the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha will have to be specially convened.

Simultaneously, there is talk of the government convening an all-party meeting to discuss the issue of which offices should be taken out of the ambit of office of profit. The Opposition is lukewarm to such a move at this juncture but most believe that such a course would have been a better option for the Manmohan Singh government to have considered in the first instance rather than promulgating an Ordinance to save a high profile member of the Nehru-Gandhi family.

Union Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal, who is believed to have advised Mrs Gandhi to resign and contest elections from Rae Bareli again, stressed "she has again demonstrated her highest respect to the principles of democracy."

Karan Singh resigns from RS 

New Delhi, March 23
The controversy over office of profit tonight claimed the parliamentary seat of a senior Congress leader Karan Singh who resigned from the Rajya Sabha, hours after his party chief Sonia Gandhi’s quitting from the Lok Sabha and as Chairperson of the National Advisory Council.

Mr Karan Singh, accused by the opposition for occupying an office of profit by being the chairman of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, has sent his resignation letter, addressed to the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Mr Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

Meanwhile, Mumbai Regional Congress Committee President Gurudas Kamat today also submitted his resignation from the post and as an MP to express his solidarity with the Congress President and asked other party MPs to follow suit.


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