2G: Govt under intense pressure, may order JPC probe

Some UPA allies have made it clear that they are not averse to appoint JPC in the 2G spectrum scam.

Last Updated: Nov 22, 2010, 21:23 PM IST

New Delhi: The government could order a JPC probe into 2G spectrum scam as it came under intense pressure on Monday with the Opposition refusing to accept anything less
than such a probe and some UPA allies making it clear that they were not averse to the move.

At an all-party meeting called by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to end the deadlock in Parliament, the Opposition unitedly pressed for JPC and rejected government`s proposal for attaching a five-member multi-disciplinary probe team with the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to go into CAG report.

Even key allies of the UPA -- Trinamool Congress and DMK, whose leader A Raja was forced to resign as Telecom Minister -- seemed to be not averse to the JPC as they said the government had the responsibility of running Parliament, even if it meant by accepting the Opposition demand.

The only issue on which there were differences during the meeting was on the period to be covered by the JPC.

There was one view of DMK that JPC should investigate the telecom tenders issued from 1998 but AIADMK said it should be from 1994 onwards as the sector was privatised in that year.

As the hour-long meeting remained deadlocked, Mukherjee told the Opposition parties that he would get back to them after consulting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Later, senior government sources dropped enough hints that the demand for JPC could be considered. They said that JPC is always agreed to "reluctantly" and even when accepted,
it "does not mean defeat" of the government.

"We have to see that the Parliament runs," a source said.

Even at the meeting, Mukherjee told the leaders of various parties that "though the government was not convinced about the need for a JPC probe, if at all it agrees, it would
only give-in to the opposition demand."

Catching on this, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said that whoever (whichever government) has in the past accepted a JPC has only "given-in" to the demand. "Why don`t you give up and give-in to our demand," she told
Mukherjee.

He laughed it off saying that since Swaraj was a lawyer, she had caught him.

Mukherjee had called the leaders of parties to discuss ways to end the logjam over 2G probe because of which Parliament has remained paralysed ever since the Winter Session was convened on November 9 as the Opposition has been insisting on setting up of JPC to go into the scam.

During the meeting, the government proposed that the teams of multiple agencies probing the 2G scam could be attached with the PAC.

If the opposition parties feel so, "we can offer a multi-disciplinary investigation agency consisting of officers of various branches of different investigation agencies to the help the PAC...therefore it would be additional to the normal functioning of the PAC," Mukherjee later told reporters.

BJP, however, said the ramifications of 2G spectrum scam could be larger considering the audio tapes of conversations between a corporate lobbyist and "anchors, journalists and editors" and beyond the powers of a Public Accounts Committee because of which JPC would be required.

"A JPC can summon ministers and former ministers and even the Prime Minister. Two former finance ministers have been summoned by earlier JPCs. The PAC does not have the powers to do so. It only deals with the CAG report," Swaraj said.

The JPC on the 1992 Harshad Mehta Securities scam had summoned Manmohan Singh as finance minister while the JPC on the Ketan Parekh Securities scam had summoned then finance minister Yashwant Sinha.

"We said that we will not accept (the government proposal)," Swaraj said, a view echoed by representatives of other Opposition parties who attended the meeting.

"As the tapes have exposed, the corporate lobbyists decide who should be the minister and the allocation of portfolios. Then they decide what the policy should be and how to go about it," Jaitley said.

Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandopadhyay, whose party is the biggest UPA ally with 20 MPs, said it was the government`s responsibility to take steps to run Parliament smoothly even if it requires accepting the Opposition`s demand for a JPC probe into 2G spectrum allocation and other issues.

"The responsibility of the government is to ensure that the House functions. If the government takes a decision on JPC, we will support it," he said after attending the meeting.

Asked whether the TC was in favour of a JPC probe, "we said (in the meeting) whatever steps government takes to run the House...including setting up of JPC, it should be taken."

RLD Chief Ajit Singh said when the Opposition is united in its demand for a JPC, the government should at least clarify why it was not accepting it. The government reportedly did not reply to his query.

The Left parties, which appeared lukewarm during the November 15 all-party meeting on JPC demand, were very vocal today and strongly demanded that it be set up.

RJD and BSP stated during the meeting that they would support whatever opinion the majority of the parties had on the issue.

A Congress leader said the situation was an "evolving" one, implying that JPC could not be ruled out.

PTI