An all-party meeting called by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar on Tuesday failed to break the parliamentary deadlock over the Opposition demand for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the 2G spectrum allocation scandal, raising apprehension that the almost lost winter session will meet an early end.
Opposition parties rejected the government offer of a Supreme Court-monitored Central Bureau of Investigation probe, saying that would not serve the purpose of “accountability” to Parliament, for which a JPC was necessary.
The government was hopeful that a court-monitored CBI probe would be acceptable to the BJP. Initially, the Left parties mentioned this as a possible alternative.
However, after three weeks of parliamentary deadlock, parties have hardened their stance — the Opposition for a JPC and the government dead set against it.
Eleven non-Congress, non-BJP parties, including the Left, made their point even before the Speaker's meeting ended when their leaders marched to the Rashtrapati Bhavan to seek the President Pratibha Patil's intervention to get their JPC demand conceded and conditions created for normal functioning of Parliament.
A memorandum signed by 78 MPs from four Left parties, the Telugu Desam Party, the Janata Dal (Secular), the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Asom Gana Parishad, the Biju Janata Dal, the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Rashtriya Lok Dal was given to the President.
Apparently, the Opposition was not ready to budge from its demand and the government remained equally firm that it could not be conceded, Ms. Kumar wanted to know whether Parliament could at least take up question hour. The Opposition's response was negative.
Leader of the Opposition in the House Sushma Swaraj later told journalists: “Why only question hour? We are asking for a JPC, which is within parliamentary rules. Concede that demand and Parliament will function normally through the day. We are willing to sit for longer hours to make up for lost time and help [the government] get through all the business.”
The non-Congress, non-BJP parties blamed the Congress' “obduracy” for the impasse in the session.
“This scam is the single largest corruption scandal in independent India, estimated by the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) to have led to a loss of over Rs. 1.76 lakh crore to the exchequer,” CPI(M) Rajya Sabha MP Sitaram Yechury said.
He said their delegation pointed out to the President that JPCs had been constituted to go into corruption of even smaller dimensions.
Apart from nailing the guilty, it was necessary to find out how the system could be so manipulated as to result in such a massive scam.
The delegation told the President that the estimated loss of revenue from the scam could alone have funded food security for the entire country or implementation of the Right to Education.
The JPC could suggest safeguards and new laws to prevent such malpractices in the future, it was pointed out.