Demand to keep A. Raja out of the Ministry

The 2G spectrum allocation controversy figured in both Houses of Parliament with the AIADMK members, supported by the BJP, demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the issue. They also demanded a statement from the government on the matter.

In the Lok Sabha, AIADMK member M. Thambidurai asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to take the issue seriously and order a JPC probe. He said Telecom Minister A. Raja should be “kept out of the Ministry'' till a JPC probe is held and the ongoing investigation by the CBI is completed.

Mr. Thambidurai pointed out that the Leader of the House and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who was present, had promised that the government would respond to various issues raised by the Opposition, including 2G spectrum allocation. Mr. Thambidurai was supported in his demand by BJP members.

He alleged that the country had lost Rs. 1 lakh crore in the allocation of 2G spectrum during 2007-08. This led to a clash between members of the AIADMK, supported by the BJP, and the DMK.

Mr. Thambidurai said the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had noted that Rs. 26,000 crore had been lost “because of wrong-doing by this [Telecom] Ministry.” He said even the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) had pointed out that Raja's policy of giving 2G spectrum on ‘first-come-first-served' basis resulted in allocation at cheap rates which was “not acceptable.”

On the CVC's order, the CBI lodged an FIR under Section 120 (B) of the Cr.PC and under the Prevention of Corruption Act, Mr. Thambidurai said, adding that the CBI had subsequently raided some “benami companies.''

DMK leader T.R. Baalu, who repeatedly interrupted Mr. Thambidurai, insisted that no allegations should be levelled against the Minister against whom no case has been lodged.

Speaker Meira Kumar assured Mr. Baalu that she would go through the records and expunge anything objectionable. In the ensuing melee, Ms. Kumar adjourned the House for an hour.

In the Rajya Sabha, the AIADMK members forced a brief adjournment before staging a walkout demanding Mr. Raja's dismissal from the Union Cabinet.

As soon as the House met for the day, the AIADMK members displayed CDs and newspapers carrying purported taped conversation with Mr. Raja and public relations lobbyist Nira Radia. Chairman Hamid Ansari asked members not to show CDs or display newspapers before adjourning the House for 10 minutes. Post-adjournment the AIADMK members again raised the issue before staging a walkout.

Earlier, when the Lok Sabha assembled in the morning, the BJP tendered unconditional apology for alleged remarks of its member Ananth Kumar in the Lok Sabha against Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad during the Census 2011 debate.

As soon as the House met for the day, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj said: “I unconditionally apologise for the remarks made by Ananth Kumar yesterday [Wednesday.]'' When Mr. Prasad sought to intervene, Ms. Swaraj said in a lighter vein that she apologised on behalf of Mr. Prasad also.