The Opposition is waiting for the government to come out with a concrete proposal on its demand for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) to probe corruption scandals or suggest a different and more effective mechanism.
There was no consensus at a meeting of party leaders convened by Leader of the House in the Lok Sabha Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday and he promised to “get back to them.”
After the hour-long luncheon meeting, Mr. Mukherjee indicated that he would convey the views of the leaders to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and contact them again, possibly by Wednesday evening.
“We have time for one more day,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal noted while talking to journalists, as Parliament would not meet on Wednesday on account of Id-ul-Azha.
Ahead of the meeting, as expected, both Houses of Parliament witnessed noisy scenes with chants of “we want JPC” from the Opposition benches. After repeated adjournments, Parliament was adjourned till Thursday morning.
While the Bharatiya Janata Party is absolutely firm on its demand for a JPC — on the 2G spectrum allocation, the Commonwealth Games-related projects and the Adarsh Housing Society scam in Mumbai — there was no clarity from its side whether it wanted three separate JPCs, or just one for all the three scams.
At the meeting when this question was asked, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said “three,” while her counterpart in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, said “that could be worked out later.”
Some Left members and Janata Dal (Secular) leader H.D. Deve Gowda also mentioned the corruption in mining in Karnataka and elsewhere, suggesting that this issue too should be probed to send a loud signal from Parliament that it will not tolerate anyone skimming away of thousands of crores of rupees of public money.
While not averse to the idea of a JPC, Left party representatives — D. Raja, Gurudas Dasgupta, Basudeb Acharya and Sitaram Yechury — said there could be a more effective mechanism than the JPC. It was suggested that various enforcement and investigative agencies could be put under the charge of a Supreme Court judge to go into the scams.
The Left was also clear that it did not want the parliamentary stalemate to continue.
Mr. Mukherjee later told journalists that the government wanted a discussion on the issue, and so far no solution was found. He also appealed to all parties to help Parliament function smoothly.
Mr. Bansal made it clear that the government's unwillingness to set up a JPC did not mean that it wanted to hide anything. In fact, investigations had begun and these would be hampered if a JPC was to be set up. Five different agencies were working on the CWG-related scams, he pointed out. “A JPC is more of a political platform; not an agency for investigation.”
Ms. Swaraj's view was different. “The Public Accounts Committee goes into accounting issues and does a post-mortem of the Comptroller and Auditor General reports. The JPC can look at policy issues and decision making,” she said.
The Trinamool Congress party representative felt that a way out of the impasse would be to allow the House to decide whether a JPC should or should not be set up by discussing this very issue under a substantive motion.
The Biju Janata Dal wanted a judicial probe.