BJP demands Chidambaram's removal, minister rejects charges

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Friday continued to press for the resignation of Home Minister P. Chidambaram over alleged favouritism to a hotelier, stalling parliament for the second consecutive day while the "deeply hurt" minister rejected the allegations. The hotelier said he had never met Chidambaram.

"I am deeply hurt. I strongly reject the completely unfounded allegations of the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party)," Chidambaram told reporters here, breaking his silence on the issue.

In parliament, the opposition upped the ante against Chidamabram -- a key minister in the 30-month-old United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-II government -- in both houses, leading to their adjournments first till noon and then for the day.

Even as Chidambaram responded on the issue, the BJP continued its vehement attack against him for "conflict of interest", alleging Chidambaram favoured S.P. Gupta, chairman of Sunair Hotels Pvt Ltd, by permitting withdrawal of prosecution against him, thus misusing his office for his "former client". It demanded his summary dismissal and imprisonment.

"Chidambaram's place is not in parliament or the ministry. He should be put in prison next to (former communications minister A.) Raja (who has been jailed for his involvement in the 2G spectrum scandal)," BJP chief Nitin Gadkari told reporters.

"He (Chidambaram) should be sacked summarily," party leader and former finance minister Yashwant Sinha said.

Already, the BJP has been resorting to a boycott of Chidambaram in parliament for his alleged role in the 2G spectrum scandal. He has been facing cases in the CBI special court and the Supreme Court on the 2G spectrum scandal.

Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury said Chidambaram should clarify his position.

Chidambaram sought to put the controversy at rest, saying he didn't have any "current subsisting interest with any case he represented as a lawyer" because "I can't have a life long interest in over 25,000 cases" he represented as lawyer in the last four decades.

The home minister said he had "once" seen the file of hotelier seeking withdrawal of his prosecution and that he had asked the ministry not to give any directions in the case.

"The confidential draft was prepared by the director who didn't show it to anyone and sent it on his own. I was clear that no directions should be given. Had I had a continuing interest, it would be conflict of interest," said Chidambaram. Hotelier S.P. Gupta told a news channel he had never met Chidambaram.

"I have never met him," Gupta told Times Now television channel when asked as to when was the last time he had met Chidambaram, who was his lawyer in 1999.

Gupta said he was the victim of a conspiracy by a business rival. He said "the law will take its course" and he was hopeful the facts will be out soon. "Because we are not living in a police state, we are living in a democratic state," he added.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister P.K. Bansal staunchly supported Chidambaram

"Where is the question of any conflict of interest?" he asked referring to BJP's allegation that Chidambaram was Gupta's counsel in 2003, and adding Chidambaram had written that the ministry's advice should not be forwarded to Delhi government.

BJP MP Chandan Mitra, who had given notice on the issue in the Rajya Sabha Friday, gave indications that the issue would rock parliament on Monday too.

The case dates back to 1999 when Gupta and his company, the owners of the luxury Metropolitan Hotel, were involved in a legal battle with private firm VLS Finance Ltd that claims to have funded the hotel project.

Following the uproar in parliament on the issue Thursday, Delhi Lt Governor Tejendra Khanna revoked the home ministry decision of withdrawal of prosecution in the case.

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