2G: Govt reaches out; BJP firm on JPC probe

The fortnight-long stalemate in Parl over the alleged 2G scam is unlikely to end.

Last Updated: Nov 29, 2010, 10:13 AM IST

New Delhi: In a bid to end Parliament
impasse, Government on Sunday reached out to BJP saying it was
ready for a discussion on 2-G spectrum issue and a Supreme
Court-monitored CBI probe but rejected the demand for a JPC,
which failed to cut ice with the main opposition.

Leader of the House in Lok Sabha and Finance Minister
Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday called NDA Working-Chairperson L K
Advani and Leader of Opposition in Lower House Sushma Swaraj
to discuss the continuing deadlock in Parliament since
November 10 over opposition demand for a JPC probe.

Swaraj, a new entrant on micro-blogging site Twitter, wrote Sunday afternoon: "Mukherji spoke to me & Advaniji some time back and told that JPC was not possible."

Sources said Mukherjee told the two BJP leaders that
government could not agree to a JPC probe as the earlier
experiences have not been good. He recounted the Bofors and
Harshad Mehta stock scams in which JPC probes were held and
maintained that they became political and the opposition
turned them into election issues to garner votes.

Mukherjee suggested that instead of a JPC probe, a
full-fledged debate on 2-G Spectrum allocation scam can be
held in Parliament. This was rejected by the BJP leaders who
said discussions have already been held in earlier sessions of
Parliament on the scam.

The senior Congress leader also suggested that the
Supreme Court can take over the supervision of the CBI probe
into the 2-G scam. But this prompted the two leader to ask as
to how the government could ensure this.

The BJP leaders conveyed to Mukherjee that they were
firm on their demand for a JPC probe and would not give it up.

"Government is primarily and constitutionally
accountable only to Parliament. The best and only option in
this case is a JPC probe," Deputy Leader of BJP in Rajya
Sabha SS Ahluwalia said.

Meanwhile, Speaker Meira Kumar was apparently keen to
hold all-party meeting on Monday at 4 PM to find a way out of
the Parliament impasse.

But since Swaraj and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha
Arun Jaitley will be away in Bhopal to attend a programme
tomorrow to mark five years of Shivraj Singh Chouhan`s tenure
as Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, the meeting had to be
postponed. It may now be held late in the evening on Monday or
on Tuesday morning.

BJP sources said, Advani and Ahluwalia are likely to
lead the opposition charge in forcing adjournment of the Lok
Sabha and Rajya Sabha respectively tomorrow over the JPC probe
demand.

The Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha said the finance minister "appealed that we give up our demand for JPC... We told Pranab Mukherjee that we could not give up demand for JPC".

The parliament logjam during the winter session that began Nov 9 has stalled the legislative business of the government.

The two houses had some 115 working hours scheduled in the first 11 days of the session. The opposition, which has united over the 2G issue and the government are blaming each other for the wasted parliament time that has also cost the national exchequer over Rs.80 crore.

According to the PRS Legislative Research, the Lok Sabha has met for only 5.37 hours in 11 days of the session, which is only nine percent of the scheduled time.

The Rajya Sabha on the other had met for mere 1.14 hours, according to the PRS.

BJP parliamentary party spokesperson SS Ahluwalia said the opposition was ready "to cooperate".

"But they have to accept our demand for setting up a JPC to probe into the 2G scam worth Rs 1.76 lakh crore," Ahluwalia said to a news agency.

Earlier on in the weekend, efforts by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Mukherjee and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal to reach out to the opposition for ending the stalemate have failed.

The government is sticking to its decision to get the allegations checked by a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) - an empowered parliamentary panel that is headed by BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi. But the PAC doesn`t have the power to question the prime minister while a JPC can.

Mukherjee, a known trouble-shooter for the government, has confessed he was unable to find a solution. "I do not know how to resolve this impasse," Mukherjee said. The logjam has put a question mark on the passage of major government bills, including one that seeks more money for subsidies and federal schemes and has already been tabled in the Lok Sabha.

The bill seeks sanction to spend Rs.19,812 crore for payments towards subsidy on fertilisers and food, rural roads construction and other expenditure.

The government can technically approve the demand without a debate and through voice vote, but it fears that it will receive flak from the opposition.

The government has offered a probe into the 2G scam by an empowered Public Accounts Committee, assisted by investigative agencies, but the opposition has shot down the proposal.

Meanwhile, Congress spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed
rejected suggestions that some of the UPA allies were also in
favour of a JPC probe.

"The reply of the government is reply of the UPA. It
is the reply of every party which is in the government.

Government has already said that a JPC probe is not required
in the matter and let PAC first examine the matter. Congress
stand is also the same that the matter should be allowed to be
looked into by the PAC," Ahmed said.

Another senior Congress leader maintained that if the
PAC feels that the matter needs further investigation then the
argument can be taken further.

"It is better to face these disruptions in Parliament
than be subjected to selective leaks and insinuation campaigns
for two years by a JPC," the leader said.

He also suggested that the Parliamentary Public
Accounts Committee should first go through the CAG report on
2-G spectrum allocation and if it is not satisfied then other
options can be explored.

PTI