That the Public Accounts Committee, which is examining the loss to the exchequer in the 2G spectrum allocation scandal, would split along party lines was expected. But the attempts by members of the ruling United Progressive Alliance to discredit and dump the entire draft PAC report have gone beyond tolerable levels of political partisanship — and now threaten parliamentary procedures and established norms. While some of the concerns about “factual discrepancies” in the report merited consideration, nothing could possibly justify the desperate methods adopted by the ruling coalition members at the PAC meeting. After committee chairman Murli Manohar Joshi had ‘adjourned' the meeting, the UPA members elected Congressman Saifuddin Soz to the Chair and organised a ‘vote' to reject the draft wholesale. The UPA just about had numbers, after winning over the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, which support the government from outside. The ‘vote' rejecting the report was carried 11 to none, after Dr. Joshi and other opposition Members of Parliament walked out. But the appropriateness of the vote itself is in question, as Dr. Joshi says he adjourned the meeting seeking time to examine the allegations of discrepancies in the report. The proper course would have been to thoroughly debate the draft report, rectify discrepancies and errors, and then decide on submitting it to the Lok Sabha Speaker. Instead, chaos was engineered at the PAC meeting to avoid any discussion on the inconvenient issues raised by the draft report on the acts of commission and omission by the former Communications Minister A. Raja, and on the failure of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Prime Minister's Office to prevent the defrauding of the exchequer through the manipulation of an already-flawed ‘first-come first-served' policy.
Questions about the leak of the draft should not be allowed to divert attention from the work of the PAC, which succeeded in raising key issues in the 2G scam. It is just as well that the document is in the public domain, enabling people to read it and make up their mind on the contentious issues. The UPA, which shamelessly stonewalled demands for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe by pointing to the PAC's work on the same issue, cannot be allowed to undermine the PAC in the name of an ongoing JPC probe. If the 21-member PAC is unable to agree on the report, Dr. Joshi might feel compelled to submit it directly to the Speaker, who will have the final call on its adoption. The ruling coalition members would be well-advised to discuss all the facts and issues brought up by the draft report, rather than seek to use its thin majority in the PAC to politically shield those involved in, or accountable for, India's biggest corruption scandal.