Team Anna embroiled in fresh controversy
Congress targets Kiran Bedi
PRESS TRUST OF INDIA
New Delhi, Oct 20: Team Anna plunged into yet another controversy today with allegations against Kiran Bedi that she over charged companies and institutions by inflating her travel expenses, evoking a strong attack from Congress and former colleagues in the anti-corruption campaign.
Allegations were levelled against Bedi, a key member of TeamAnna, that she used her gallantry medal to get 75 per cent discount on Air India tickets and then submitted inflated invoices to claim full fare from the organisers who invite her to speak at various fora.
It was also alleged that she claimed business class fare even when she was travelling in economy class.
Reacting to the allegations, Bedi told PTI, "business class travel is part of the invitation from the event organisers and corporates who ask me to speak. Travelling economy is a choice despite entitlement to ensure that savings remain with the NGO.
"(There is) no personal gain here. Sorry to disappoint detractors trying real hard to find a smoking gun. However, I accept this kind of coverage as a part of the challenges which being in public life poses," she said adding the money "saved" went to NGO India Vision Foundation run by her.
However, her explanations have not carried conviction with her detractors.
Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh termed the entire episode as a "very serious allegation" and insisted that Bedi should come clean on it.
Stepping the offensive against her, party spokesperson Rashid Alvi said, "Bedi must first prove herself clean to the people before she fights against corruption.... It is very unfortunate that while, on one hand she fights against corruption, on the other she should be doing all this."
Alvi said, "One colleague of Anna Hazare demands plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir, the other says Anna is above Parliament and now the third one is found charging more money from her hosts than she actually paid on her airfare. All of them are now showing their true colours."
Taking a dig at Bedi over allegations that she charged her hosts full fare on air tickets while availing discount, Law Minister Salman Khurshid said unlike Team Anna he cannot pass "ex-parte" judgements on people.
"I don't find myself equipped or able to pronounce a judgement on anybody as quickly as is pronounced on many of us by the movement (led by Anna Hazare) in which Kiran Bedi has a very significant role...I don't find myself in a position to pass ex parte judgements," he said.
Swami Agnivesh, who was in Team Anna's campaign, said Bedi's argument is not very convincing. "I will request her to either file a report with the police or ask the CBI to probe her NGO," he said.
He said misuse of gallantry award discount by misstating facts was a serious issue and asked Bedi to submit herself to an independent probe.
He said investigating agencies should also probe the purpose for which her NGO's funds are being spent.
A core member of Team Anna, Arvind Kejriwal accused the government of being behind the news report to dent the credibility of the anti-graft campaign.
Team Anna has been turmoil in the recent days following Hazare's flipflop over Prashant Bhushan's advocacy of plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir and resignation of two prominent Core Committee members P V Rajagopal and Rajinder Singh complaining that decisions were not being taken democratically.
There was also dissension in the team regarding the move to launch an anti-Congress campaign in Hisar bypolls and upcoming Assembly elections without proper discussion in the Core Committee.
Lastupdate on : Thu, 20 Oct 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 20 Oct 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 21 Oct 2011 00:00:00 IST
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