All-party meet on 2G scam fails to end deadlock
Opposition rejects the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee proposal
The stalemate between the UPA government and the opposition parties over a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the 2G spectrum scam failed to make headway.
In the all-party meeting, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had offered to attach five officials from various probe agencies of the government to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC). But an adamant opposition flatly rejected the proposal and consolidated behind the demand for a JPC.
The PAC is currently scrutinising the CAG report on 2G spectrum allocations and the attachment of these agencies – including representatives from the police and CBI – could provide an added dimension to the PAC’s work.
Mukherjee had also suggested that while a JPC would be headed by a Congressman, the PAC was headed by a leading member of the Opposition, Murli Manohar Joshi of the BJP. However, his reasoning found no takers.
As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was out of Delhi this morning, Mukherjee told party leaders he would let the Opposition know of the government’s decision after consulting the Prime Minister.
It is learnt that Singh had told his party colleagues that if a JPC is what it takes to get the Opposition back in Parliament, he is ready for it. At the luncheon meet, some parties demanded that if there was a JPC, it must look into the matter since 1994, taking into account what had happened during the NDA regime. The BJP members present in the meeting said they had no objection to it. But the government remained non-committal.
The PMO is also under scrutiny for the Prime Minister’s “inaction” against the then telecom minister, A Raja and opposition leaders pointed out that the PAC would not be able to probe the role of the PMO.
When Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj told Mukherjee that a PAC probe was not acceptable and the matter must be referred to a JPC, CPI’s Gurudas Dasgupta echoed her views. “In 1991, after the stock market scam, we demanded a JPC to look into the role of the finance ministry. Manmohan Singh, then finance minister, agreed to a JPC. Now, his office (PMO) is involved. Why can’t we have another JPC?” he said.
Government managers argued that a permanent JPC in the form of the PAC already exists. But Swaraj said in the past 20 years, there had been four JPCs even though the PAC existed. She also said that the PAC along with a multiple agency probe is not a tested mechanism.
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said, “The PAC can only look into the audit issues. But we want to identify the policy lapses and also recommend changes required in the policies of the government. This work has to be done through a JPC.”
DMK leader T R Baalu favoured a JPC, while Trinamool Congress representative Sudip Bandopadhyay argued: “In West Bengal, the assembly Speaker never allows a discussion on a CAG report until it is vetted by the PAC. He disallowed a discussion recently, as the state is heading for an election.”
By the time other members could link West Bengal elections and the 2G spectrum scam, Bandopadhyay observed that the government, if it wants, can consider the demand for a JPC. Opposition parties have stalled Parliament proceedings since the beginning of the Winter Session and are adamant over their demand for a JPC inquiry into the multi-crore 2G spectrum scam.
November 23, 2010