Srinagar, Nov 9: Stepping up pressure on the Legislative Council Chairman Amrit Malthotra to quash the House panel probing charges of forest land grab against the Minister for PHE and Flood Control Taj Mohi-ud-Din, the ruling National Conference Friday pulled out its two legislators from the panel while as eight legislators of the Upper House—understood to be belonging to the camp led by Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad—demanded quashing of the Committee against the Minister. The 'pressure tactic' of the coalition partners to get Taj out of trouble comes following the minister's plea to get the inquiry against him scrapped.
In a surprising turn of events in the LC Secretariat in Jammu on Friday, the NC legislators Khalid Najib Suharwardy and Bashir Ahmed Veeri, who were part of the House panel probing the charges against Taj, have submitted their resignation to LC chairman Amrit Malhotra. In a joint letter to Malhotra, both the legislators have asserted that "the constitution of the committee is in violation of constitutional parameters and doesn't meet the requirement of justice."
But while quitting, both the NC leaders claimed to be standing for accountability of public representatives.
"We sincerely uphold probity in the public life and are for accountability of public servants/ representatives," the resignation letter reads.
Incidentally, Veeri did not raise any objection over the House panel during its first meeting held in Srinagar before Durbar move. And Suharawardy had sought inquiry into the allegations in the Upper House when the issue came to fore there on October 11. On that day, allegations of forest land grab were leveled against Taj by Panther's Party legislator Syed Rafiq Shah. Shah had displayed documents of Revenue and Forest departments in support of his claim. But Taj had termed the allegations baseless and said he would quit from council of ministers if the same were proved.
While LC chairman is yet to take up the final call on resignation of NC legislators, the NC leadership, however, said that they had quitted due to presence of PDP legislator Murtaza Khan in the five-member probe panel—a reason different from the one cited in the resignation letter.
"We had decided not to participate in the meetings which are attended by Murtaza Khan after he misbehaved with our legislator Vijay Bakaya. How can we participate in the panel headed by him?" Suharwardy told Greater Kashmir.
According to sources, the chairman would accept resignation only after confirming it from both the legislators.
"He might ask them to give valid reasons for resigning from the Committee before accepting their plea," they said.
Pertinently, the NC support to Taj comes barely few days after the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said that it was difficult to tackle graft in the state due to "coalition compulsions."
In his opening address at the second "Asian Forum on Global Governance" in New Delhi recently, Omar said coalition governments would not be able to fight corruption as many compromises have to be made in a coalition set-up.
"If corruption is to be fought effectively, people should elect single party governments," he was quoted as having said.
In another significant development, eight Congress legislators believed to be close to Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad have written a letter to the LC chairman seeking quashing of the House Committee.
According to sources, the Congress legislators B R Kundal, Naresh Gupta, Amin Bhat, Ali Muhammad Bhat, Jahangir Mir, Jugal Kishore Sharma, Subash Chandar Gupta and Nabroo Gaylson have urged the chairman to review his decision of constituting the panel.
While raising some legal points over constitution of the Committee, the communication from the Congress legislators reportedly reads that "member of Lower House cannot be subjected to the jurisdiction of Upper House."
"They have also cited rules of procedure of the House relating to the raising of query by Rafiq Shah to push for their demand (rescinding of the panel)," sources further disclosed.
Pertinently, the strength of Congress in LC is 12 including Malthotra.
While eight legislators have thrown weight behind Taj today, Medical Education Minister RS Chib who was earlier seen close to State Congress president Prof. Saifuddin Soz has also backed him.
At present, the strength of LC is 30 with NC having 13 legislators and Congress 12. While the strength of PDP and Panthers Party is respectively four and one.
Earlier Taj had written four letters to Speaker LA Muhammad Akbar Lone and Malthora seeking quashing of inquiry. Besides, Chib has also made the similar demand.