Opposition has destroyed Parliament: Pranab

A day after his offer to hold a special session of Parliament to discuss whether or not to set up a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the 2G spectrum scam as a way of breaking the parliamentary deadlock was rejected, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee trained his guns on the Opposition.

“In the entire winter session, they [Opposition] did not allow any opportunity for any discussion on any issue... They have created a deadlock in Parliament. They have destroyed the institution,” Mr. Mukherjee said on Thursday. “They should apologise to the nation.”

With speculation rife about the significance of Mr. Mukherjee's offer — incidentally also made by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Bansal during the recent winter session — Congress sources said that with the Opposition, particularly the Bharatiya Janata Party, taking a rigid position, the only way out was to create public opinion. Hence, Mr. Mukherjee made his offer in public to expose the “unreasonableness” of the Opposition. Indeed, this comes two days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offered to appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), an offer that was also rejected by the BJP.

The Congress is also saying privately that it does not wish to set up a JPC, as it is sure that the Opposition, if it is not satisfied with its outcome, will say it has produced a “tailored” report as the chairman will be a Congressman. “Why should we carry the can for [the former Telecom Minister] Raja? He doesn't belong to the Congress,” a party functionary said.

Meanwhile, Congress media chairperson Janardan Dwivedi, stressed that Mr. Mukherjee's offer was a reiteration of the government and the party's desire for a discussion in Parliament. It did not mean that any decision had been taken on holding a special session. The Opposition should have used the forum of Parliament to thrash out the issue, even as the PAC completed its examination of the Comptroller and Auditor-General's Report on the 2G scam.

The fact that the Opposition did not want a debate indicated that its demand for a JPC — which Mr. Dwivedi stressed, would not be able to go beyond the various enquiries already in motion — was “politically motivated.” It would stretch something that could be completed in three months — the various enquiries into the 2G spectrum scam, currently under way — into three years, he said. Mr. Dwivedi also accused the BJP of wishing to disrupt the progress the United Progressive Alliance government had made in the social sector, which had helped the UPA win a second consecutive mandate in 2009.

No debate, only enquiry: BJP

Neena Vyas reports:

The BJP has made it plain that it does not want to discuss or debate its demand for a JPC probe, but wants a firm announcement from the government accepting its demand.

The top leadership of the BJP was in Jammu on Thursday where the central office-bearers met and Mr. Mukherjee's offer was discussed and rejected.

Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj was reported to have said: “We do not want a debate. We want an enquiry. The government should first agree to set up a JPC to probe the 2G spectrum scam.”

Other voices

Though the BJP has decided to go ahead with its public rallies in a string of cities, including Jammu, to focus people's attention on what it describes as the biggest case of corruption in independent India, there are some voices in the party that it was time the Opposition accepted the fact that the government had ordered a “multifaceted investigation,” and dropped the JPC demand and let Parliament function.

A senior leader told The Hindu, on condition of anonymity as this was not the party line, that a JPC would not be able to do much more than what was being done by the Supreme Court-monitored Central Bureau of Investigation probe, by the Enforcement Directorate and the Public Accounts Committee chaired by BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi.

Another leader said some days ago: “Earlier we could not even see the chair [the Prime Ministerial chair], not even for 2014, but now we have begun sensing that we could get it [power].” There are others who believe that the string of corruption cases that has besmirched UPA II could even lead to a mid-term poll and the BJP could capture power well before 2014.

This, apparently, has led to the BJP sticking to its stance: no JPC, no Parliament. The party's Deputy Leader in the Rajya Sabha, S.S. Ahluwalia, said: “There is no question of discussing whether to have a JPC or not. They [the government] must first announce their readiness to set up a JPC and then we can agree to not just one special session of Parliament but as many as they [the Congress] wants.”

While some political parties may be loath to continue disruption of Parliament into the budget session — the Left has not yet made its position clear — the situation will become clearer as the session approaches. Till then, there will be no sign of the confrontation between the Congress and the BJP abating.

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2021 12:18:42 PM |

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