Opposition's attitude to Parliament unfortunate: Bansal

The government, the Congress and its allies in the United Progressive Alliance are united in the rejection of the Opposition's demand for a joint parliamentary committee to probe the 2G spectrum allocation scandal, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said here on Wednesday.

With the Supreme Court being seized of the issue and the Central Bureau of Investigation and other agencies investigating all charges, there was nothing substantial that a JPC, divided along political lines, would be able to deliver in the way of throwing light on the subject, Mr. Bansal said. The demand was political and the Opposition simply wanted to keep the issue alive for the next several years.

This is the first time an entire session — barring the first day — will be lost, as there is no hint of rapprochement in the three working days left. If the Opposition were to carry forward its demand for a JPC into the budget session, “irreversible” and “immeasurable” damage would be done to Parliament as an institution, he said.

For the Opposition, the law of diminishing returns had set in even as the government, through various actions, had shown that it was ready to expose any wrong-doing in the spectrum allocation.

It was for a duly elected government to rule and make policy while there were agencies and courts to take care of any wrong-doings. As the Opposition itself said: “While the government has its way, the Opposition must have its say.” But, as it happened, the Opposition had refused a discussion and a debate.

Mr. Bansal was critical of the statement made by Opposition leader Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday that the Opposition had been successful in focussing on corruption through the disruption of Parliament. “If this is their attitude to Parliament I can only say it is most unfortunate.”

He said the Bharatiya Janata Party seemed upset that its own leading member, Murli Manohar Joshi, as head of the prestigious Public Accounts Committee, had held several meetings to look at the CAG report on the issue. Its effort or wish to slow the committee down was a breach of parliamentary privilege. This, he said, also exposed its double standards, as it wanted an early probe into the scandal but did not want the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to get on with the job. “It seems senior leaders of the National Democratic Alliance are trying to throttle the PAC,” he added.

When the Opposition had demanded a JPC into the Bofors scandal in 1987, it was conceded to within three days by the Rajiv Gandhi government. Nothing, however, came of it despite several non-Congress governments coming to power immediately after. The demand for a JPC on the Harshad Mehta scandal in 1992 was conceded to by the Congress government without a single day of parliamentary disruption. As opposed to this, the NDA government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee had conceded to a JPC probe into the Ketan Parekh stock market scam in 2000, after business was disrupted for 8 days and a further 5 days when Parliament functioned only during Question Hour. On the Tehelka issue in 2001, the Vajpayee government did not allow a JPC although there had been serious allegations against a Minister. The “No JPC, No House” stance of the Opposition was “political blackmail, although I feel reticent about using the word blackmail,” Mr. Bansal said.

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