Kejriwal attacks Khurshid again, Congress backs minister (Roundup)

Last Updated: Mon, Oct 15, 2012 14:40 hrs

New Delhi, Oct 15 (IANS) India Against Corruption (IAC) leader Arvind Kejriwal Monday produced "more evidence" of financial bungling regarding a trust run by Law Minister Salman Khurshid and his wife even as the Congress defended him saying he was "a very important minister of UPA-2".

Addressing his supporters at Jantar Mantar here, Kejriwal paraded people who claimed they had not got any equipment - wheel-chairs, hearing aids or tricycles - from the Zakir Husain Memorial Trust.

He also trashed as "fictitious" the names of handicapped people the minister had released Sunday saying they had got equipment from the trust run by him and his wife Louise.

The Congress Monday rallied to the defence of Khurshid, who has denied allegations of embezzlement.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said the minister had "answered" all the allegations hurled at him, and he was taking the "legal way forward" against the IAC.

She called Khurshid an "important member of UPA-2... He has a reputation that he should be proud of and a legacy..."

Congress spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit said the Khurshids "have decided to approach court".

Asked if there was need for Khurshid to resign, Dikshit said the minister had presented his case strongly. "A probe is on. When the outcome comes then we will see."

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) doubted whether an enquiry into the trust would be free and fair.

Meanwhile, adding a fresh twist to the Khurshid episode, Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma said the amount in question - Rs.71 lakh - was "too small" for a central minister. "If the amount was bigger, then the matter could have been serious," the minister told reporters.

The minister later claimed his comment had been misinterpreted.

An unrelenting Kejriwal hit out at the steel minister, calling his remark an example of the "arrogance of the UPA government".

Dikshit was hard put to explain Verma's remark. "The question is not of Rs.71 lakh or R.71 crore," he said tamely. "We are committed to ensure that all the doubts and questions should be settled."

In a sudden development, Kejriwal announced he was calling off his protest against Khurshid in New Delhi and vowed to take it to his constituency Farrukhabad in Uttar Pradesh from Nov 1.

"We are suspending our agitation, not closing it... We will take our fight to every village of Farrukhabad," Kejriwal said at Jantar Mantar.

He alleged that Uttar Pradesh government would not act against Khurshid as the union law minister was also the lawyer to Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav in a disproportionate assets case in the apex court. "Both will save each other," Kejriwal said, referring to the Congress and Samajwadi Party.

On Sunday, Khurshid produced documents and pictures to prove that his NGO did hold camps in Uttar Pradesh to give away hearing aids and tricycles to the disabled. He said he will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to "share his experiences".

Louise Friday filed a civil defamation suit in the Delhi High Court against the TV Today Group seeking damages of Rs.100 crore, court sources said.

Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh's social welfare and handicapped welfare departments were Monday questioned in 17 districts over alleged financial lapses by the Zakir Husain Memorial Trust.

Teams of the economic offences wing of police were to different districts and spoke to employees of the handicapped welfare department and seized some documents.

Akhilesh Yadav declined to comment. "The probe into the complaints began under the previous government and was still on. Till it is on, I will not like to comment."

More from Sify: