The Opposition on Friday stalled the proceedings of Parliament pressing for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the gamut of the IPL muddle so much so that it even turned down the UPA government's plea for “some more time” for consideration of their demand.
Opposition members said all sorts of allegations were cropping up making the issue more serious with each passing day. They said allegations were also being levelled against two senior Union Ministers.
The ability of investigating agencies in probing the issues involved and the intentions of some agencies engaged in the enquiry process were questioned by them. Only a JPC could handle the case appropriately, they said.
The Opposition, propped up by parties extending outside support to the UPA government, sought suspension of question hour in the Lok Sabha to press their demand, while in the Rajya Sabha, the issue was raised during zero hour. The Opposition forced two adjournments in the lower House but allowed financial business to be taken up in the post-lunch session.
However, in the upper House financial business was stalled and the House was adjourned the second time for the day to meet on Monday.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, responding to the demand in the Lok Sabha, contended that in such “matters [constitution of the JPC] decisions have to be taken after due diligence and due considerations,” and maintained that it was not possible to react immediately as though preparing instant coffee.
Mr. Mukherjee underlined the government's imperativeness to ponder over the issue before taking a decision and assured the members that he would convey their sentiments to the Prime Minister.
Almost not ruling out the constitution of the JPC, Mr. Mukherjee said: “As and when we take a decision, we'll come to Parliament [to let you know of it]. Let us wait for some more time.”
He pointed out that when the members had raised the issue of constitution of a JPC a few days earlier the government had instructed all agencies concerned to carry out raids and conduct a thorough probe into the IPL's affairs.
But, Mr. Mukherjee's plea seeking more time had no soothing effect on the Opposition members who continued to raise slogans of “We want JPC.” While the entire Opposition was up on its toes, Samajwadi Party members trooped into the well to force the government to concede their demand, forcing the Chair to adjourn the House till noon.
The situation was the same when the House resumed, forcing an adjournment for the second time for lunch recess.
Raising the matter, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said the IPL muddle was becoming serious by the day. She said there were allegations against two senior Union Ministers and the accusation against them was of “gross misuse of power.”
Ms. Swaraj alleged that an Air India flight from Delhi to Coimbatore was diverted to transport cricketers from Chandigarh to Chennai to the utter discomfort of passengers who were forced to fly later.
Arguing that the investigating agencies were incapable of unravelling the misdeeds surrounding the IPL controversy, Ms. Swaraj said the constitution of the JPC was also necessary to save the dignity of the House.
Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav said allegations were being levelled against IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi of looting the whole system from “here to Rajasthan.” His demand for the JPC was also because two Union Ministers were also being accused of involvement in the IPL controversy.
Demanding that the IPL be made accountable to Parliament, Mr. Yadav underscored how Sports Minister M.S. Gill had launched a tirade against it as though he belonged to the Opposition. But, he regretted that nobody took notice of what the Minister was saying.
CPI (M) leader Basudeb Acharia described the IPL scam as the “biggest gambling” in the country and said it was not cricket but a business. The facts tumbling out only proved that ill-gotten money was being routed through Mauritius while the government preferred to sleep and turn a blind eye to the sordid affair.
The only way to unearth the truth, Mr. Acharia said, was to set up a JPC to fix responsibility for this large-scale corruption. He pointed out how the P.V. Narasimha Rao government had set up a JPC to probe the Harshad Mehta-led securities scam in 1991 when Manmohan Singh was the Finance Minister.
Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI) pointed out the “unpardonable privilege” given to the IPL by the Income Tax Department by stating publicly to the standing committee of Parliament and the Finance Ministry that it would require at least 21 months more to make the assessment.
Mr. Dasgupta maintained that only the JPC could handle the case properly not only because it could utilise the multiple agencies but also because all political parties would be represented on it and, hence, would form the most appropriate form of investigation.
He said the Prime Minister could not now adopt double standards after having approved of such an investigation as Finance Minister in 1991 against Harshad Mehta. The CPI leader said the government had to come clean and should not appear to be saving any political person whether a Minister or not.