All-party meet fails to break logjam, opposition firm on JPC (Second Lead)

Monday, November 22, 2010

NEW DELHI - Congress’ main trouble-shooter Pranab Mukherjee’s efforts to resolve the deadlock in parliament over the 2G spectrum scandal failed Monday with the opposition sticking to its demand for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe.

At an all-party meeting, the second in a week, Mukherjee proposed a multi-agency investigating agency to help the public accounts committee (PAC) of parliament, headed by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Murli Manohar Joshi, to look into the scam. However, the opposition was not budging.

“The stalemate continues,” Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) leader Ajit Singh said after the all-party meeting with Mukherjee ended.

The Trinamool Congress, an ally of the Congress in the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), said if the government decides to agree to a JPC to break the logjam in parliament the party will “give its cooperation”.

“We will extend our cooperation,” party MP Sudip Bandopadhyay told IANS.

BJP leader S.S. Ahluwalia said the government had proposed to tie an investigative mechanism with the PAC but the opposition parties rejected it.

“The entire opposition rejected it in one voice,” Ahluwalia told reporters, adding they were firm on the demand for JPC.

Unlike the PAC, the JPC can call a minister and even the prime minister, he said.

Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj had raised the issue of corporates trying to influence ministerial appointments and portfolios, Ahluwalia said.

He said recent disclosures of taped conversations had divulged how corporates were influencing anchors, writers and journalists to write in the interest of a person going to benefit a corporate house.

This issue, in Ahluwalia’s view, could be part of the terms of reference of a parliamentary committee.

At his last meeting with opposition leaders Nov 15, Mukherjee had said he would get back on the JPC demand after consulting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Ahluwalia said.

Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Gurudas Dasgupta said the “role of the prime minister was in question” and only a JPC could meet the ends of justice.

“PM’s inaction has led to a colossal loss to the exchequer. That can be looked into by JPC,” Dasgupta said.

The Left was firm on the demand for a JPC at the Monday meeting.

Official sources said the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) said they will go by the broad consensus on the demand for JPC.

The DMK, an ally of the UPA, said if a JPC is constituted, it should look into policy decisions on spectrum allocation since 1999, the sources said.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has indicted A. Raja, who resigned as communications minister over the 2G scandal, and said his policies could have caused a notional loss of up to Rs.1.76 lakh crore ($40 billion) to the exchequer.

The parliament’s winter session that began Nov 9 has witnessed repeated adjournments over the opposition’s insistence on a JPC probe into the scam, despite the resignation of Raja.

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