New Delhi: Congress Party spokesperson Renuka Chaudhry on Thursday said Finance Minister P Chidambaram was not afraid of appearing before the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) looking into various aspects of the 2G telecom scam.
Reacting to the demand of political parties that Chidambaram appear as a witness in the JPC on the 2G issue, Chaudhry said: "Chidambaram is not afraid of this."
Chaudhry`s comment came shortly after UPA-II key ally, the Samajwadi Party, said that Chidambaram should testify before a joint parliamentary committee that`s studying the allocation of 2G spectrum during the period from 1999 to 2009.
That has so far been ruled out by the committee’s head, PC Chacko, who belongs to the Congress.
"This is the predicament of the chairman of a parliamentary committee. Political parties try to score brownie points. They know very well, under the rules, we cannot call the PM or a minister," said Chacko.
He said that he had written to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, seeking her advice on whether Chidambaram can be summoned by the panel as a witness.
Sources said Chidambaram is open to the idea of appearing before the panel.
The committee was set up as a corollary of the telecom scam, worth Rs 1.76 lakh crores according to the national auditor. Today`s meeting of the committee was boycotted by the opposition BJP, and saw Left and Samajwadi Party parliamentarians pressing for Chidambaram`s appearance. Mulayam Singh Yadav, who heads the Samajwadi Party (SP), is propping up the government, which is in a minority since last month.
The opposition BJP has been boycotting meetings of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) that`s dissecting the telecom scam because it wants the Prime Minister and Chidambaram to explain to the panel`s 30 members how it was executed on their watch in 2008.
With Chacko indicating that`s not possible, the BJP`s six members skipped today`s session.
There was another flashpoint at today`s meeting. Gurudas Dasgupta of the CPI was present today but left the meeting mid-way because he said Congress member Shashi Tharoor intervened to help an official who was being questioned by him, which violates protocol.
In 2008, the telecom minister was A Raja of the DMK, a senior member of the Prime Minister`s coalition. He was arrested and is now on trial for conspiring with different companies to help them get out-of-turn licenses for mobile networks. More than 120 of those licenses were cancelled by the Supreme Court earlier this year, which ordered that they must be awarded through a new auction process.
Today, the six BJP members on the parliamentary committee including Yashwant Sinha and Jaswant Singh, did not attend the meeting. Explaining why, Sinha sent a strongly-worded letter to Chacko accusing him of acting in ``autocratic`` and ``non-democratic`` manner.
Sinha wrote:"The Committee must record the evidence of the Prime Minister and the finance minister. Their appearance in view of their role in the decision making process is absolutely necessary" to address questions which "they and they alone can answer".