Idea is to accommodate AIADMK, smaller parties
In a bid to accommodate the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and smaller parties, the United Progressive Alliance government on Wednesday agreed to expand the Joint Parliamentary Committee, being set up to examine the 2G spectrum scam, to accommodate 30 members. “We've decided to have a 30-member panel to accommodate smaller parties,” government sources said.
With representation of parties depending on their strength in Parliament, the AIADMK would have been excluded had the government stuck to its original plan of having a 21-member JPC. The government's concession was prompted by its concern that parties not represented in the JPC should not further embarrass it in Parliament.
In this context, Congress functionaries had over the last few weeks repeatedly mentioned the AIADMK: with the DMK leader and former Telecom Minister, A. Raja's alleged involvement in the 2G spectrum scam a major talking point for the AIADMK in the run-up to the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections, the Congress wanted to minimise collateral damage as it is going to the polls in alliance with the DMK.
However, the government's concession came after Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and National Democratic Alliance working chairperson L.K. Advani conveyed to it the AIADMK's request to be accommodated in the JPC. Earlier in the day, AIADMK MP M. Thambi Durai met the two BJP leaders to request them to take up the party's case for a 30-member JPC. While 20 JPC members will be drawn from the Lok Sabha, the other 10 will be from the Rajya Sabha. The Congress is likely to have eight members from the Lok Sabha and three from the Rajya Sabha. The BJP's representation should be six — four from the Lower House and two from the Upper House. The BJP, it is learnt, has decided to accommodate the Shiv Sena in its quota. It is also toying with the idea of giving the Shiromani Akali Dal one place, but no decision has yet been taken on that. Though the BJP list is not ready, party sources said, Deputy Leader of the party in the Rajya Sabha S.S. Ahluwalia is likely to be a member.
The JPC chairperson will be from the Congress. Party sources say P.C. Chacko from Kerala has been sounded out for the job. However, government sources said a shortlist had been sent to the party leadership, so nothing was certain yet.
Of the other parties, the DMK, which is in the eye of the 2G storm, will get two members, and its principal rival, the AIADMK, one. The Bahujan Samaj Party, the Janata Dal (United) and the Left parties will have two each; the Samajwadi Party and the Biju Janata Dal, and the Congress' allies, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Trinamool Congress, one each.
The motion for the constitution of the JPC would be moved under Rule 184 by Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal at 2 p.m. in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, and a four-hour discussion on the issue would follow, government sources said, adding the motion would then be adopted by voice vote. While these sources, quoting a precedent, said the government would like the JPC to finish its work by the last day of the monsoon session, the Opposition is pushing for its completion “within a reasonable time.”