The CBI affidavit to the Supreme Court that the draft report of the coal scam probe was shared with the Law Minister, the PMO and the Coal Ministry has given fresh ammunition to the Opposition. The Opposition, which has been on the offensive ever since the leakage of the JPC draft report on the 2G scam, and which stalled proceedings of Parliament throughout the week, was scathing in its attack on Manmohan Singh and said it was time for the Prime Minister to call it quits.
At a news conference here, senior BJP leader and former Defence Minister Jaswant Singh sarcastically said it was time for Dr. Singh to liberate the country from his rule.
“A comment was made on Dr. Manmohan Singh by somebody several years back. I would not name the person but he said that Singh is seen as an economist way above his capabilities and as a politician, people have not been able to understand his political prowess, competence and cleverness,” he quipped.
The tone and tenor of Mr. Singh’s comments suggest that the Opposition is in no mood to let the House function. Worried over the prospects of a washout of the residual budget session, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath called on NDA Working Chairman and senior BJP leader L.K. Advani to break the impasse.
However, nothing seems to have emerged from the interaction. There is a perception among the opposition leaders that the government is not interested in the normal functioning of Parliament.
“There can be no other explanation for the manner in which the government is going about. A day before the budgetary session was to resume, a highly provocative JPC draft report is leaked to media. After such actions how can the government expect cooperation from Opposition,” asked a senior opposition leader.
With the Opposition and the government locked in confrontation, there is very little chance of the passage of some of the pet Bills of the UPA like the Food Security Bill and the Land Acquisition bill.
Mr. Singh said the Congress logic that the Opposition could not approach the Speaker seeking the removal of JPC Chairman P.C. Chacko made no sense as the party itself had raised the issue of ‘conflict of interest’ of at least two of the BJP members on the JPC. The BJP leader pointed out that in the very first meeting of the JPC, he and Yashwant Sinha had volunteered that if there was any objection they would “happily withdraw” from the Committee.
However, when Mr. Chacko referred the matter to the Lok Sabha Speaker, she ruled that since no objections were raised when the three BJP leaders were elected to the JPC in the House and since there is no “personal, pecuniary or direct interest” of these members in the matter being considered by the panel, they should continue.
On the CBI affidavit to the apex court, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said, “It is clearly evident that there was political interference and premature disclosure of the report to the officials of the PMO, Law and Coal Ministries. This is a violation of the Supreme Court directives.”
Separately, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury circulated a note to other members of the JPC explaining why a conclusive report of the JPC cannot be prepared unless several questions are answered by the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister.