Cong rakes up oil-for-food scam to counter Natwar

Cong rakes up oil-for-food scam to counter Natwar

The Congress on Friday hit back at former external affairs minister Natwar Singh for his statements on party president Sonia Gandhi by bringing up the Volcker Committee’s findings on Singh’s involvement in the oil-for-food scandal.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said, “We can understand Natwar Singh’s underlying antagonism which is the subtext of this proposed book but we ask through the public domain what was the alternative with the UPA-I government in the light of what has been written in the Volcker Report.”

He said the party took a clearly principled stand when Singh was asked to resign. “The government and the party had no option but to take serious cognizance of the extremely serious findings of the so-called Volcker committee to investigate the (irregularities in) so-called UN Oil for Food programme."

Singhvi said the Volcker report found “Singh’s family were non-contractual (corrupt) beneficiaries of the Oil for Food programmes”.

It went on to say that Singh, his son Jagat Singh and Jagat’s childhood friend Andaleeb Sehgal were associated with a company called Hamdan Exports which acted as an intermediary for illegal sale of oil to a Swiss firm named Masefield AG.

In return for these illegal sales, Masefield paid kickbacks (termed “surcharge”) partly to Saddam Hussein’s regime because they were doing illegal oil export and partly to Singh and others who facilitated these exports.

Singh, however, kept up his attack on Congress president Sonia Gandhi, saying strong reaction from her to his new book, proves that it “has touched a raw nerve”. He claimed that “50 Congressmen” called him to congratulate him for “telling the truth” in his new book. 

A day before, Sonia Gandhi had said she will write her own book to tell her side of the story dismissing Singh’s claim that she did not become prime minister in 2004 because of her son Rahul Gandhi, who was afraid that she would be killed like Rajiv Gandhi.

In more interviews to NDTV and CNN-IBN on Friday, Singh, who had to quit from Manmohan Singh’s Cabinet in December 2005 in the wake of the controversy over his alleged involvement in the Iraq Oil-for-Food scandal, described Rahul, as “a good person” but said he does not have the fire needed to serve as a full-time politician.

Flaying her refusal to give him a chance to counter the allegations of corruption against him, he said, “We have a tradition that people who are older than you...you give them regard....anyone not born in India would not know this.”

Singh, however, was clear that without the Gandhis as its anchor, the Congress will disintegrate into “five factions”. He said, “For the last 15 years, Sonia Gandhi has held the party together. For politics, you must have fire in your belly. I don’t think he (Rahul) has that fire.”

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