Raja, 2G spectrum shadows government, stalls parliament again (Roundup)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

NEW DELHI/CHENNAI - Pressure on the government to act against IT minister A. Raja for his alleged involvement in the 2G spectrum scandal mounted Thursday as opposition MPs continued to press for his ouster, forcing parliament to be adjourned without any business for the second consecutive day.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other opposition MPs threatened not to let parliament function till Communications and IT Minister Raja, who allegedly sold 2G spectrum in 2008 at lower prices than the market rates, was sacked. The scam is said to have caused a loss of Rs.1.76 lakh crore (Rs.1.76 trillion/approx $40 billion) to the government.

The tumult came a day after the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report, which is believed to have indicted Raja, was submitted to the government.

To add to the heat, AIADMK leader J. Jayalalithaa said in Chennai that she understood the compulsions of coalition politics - Raja is from the DMK, a key ally of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) — and would back the Manmohan Singh government.

The former Tamil Nadu chief minister told a TV channel the AIADMK had nine members in the Lok Sabha and with the help of “like-minded parties” could offer support of 18 MPs — to make up for the DMK’s 18 if the latter withdrew its legislative backing to Manmohan Singh in case Raja was sacked and the DMK withdrew support.

“It is coalition politics. To put it plainly and bluntly, it is obvious the Congress feels that any precipitate action against Raja will result in the DMK withdrawing its support to the union coalition government, and the Congress obviously fears that its fragile coalition will collapse and this will lead to mid-term polls,” she said.

The BJP was equally forthright. Stating that he did not expect the UPA to prefer morality over survival, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said this session would be historic and “expose the government”.

Thursday was the third day of the over one-month-long winter session that began Tuesday and ends Dec 13 with a scheduled 24 sittings.

Though the Congress had hoped to blunt the opposition edge and axed its Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan for alleged connection to the Adarsh housing society scam as well as Suresh Kalmadi from the parliamentary party after the corruption cloud over the Commonwealth Games, the gambit was clearly not very successful.

For the second day, the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha were rocked by noisy protests and demands for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the 2G spectrum scam. Corruption in Adarsh housing society and the Commonwealth Games was also raised, finally leading to both houses being adjourned for the week till Monday without even one minute of business being transacted for the second day.

As an adamant opposition refused to let the houses function, the government ruled out a JPC probe into the controversial 2G spectrum allotment.

Rejecting the opposition demands, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said “there is no need for a JPC inquiry” as a report by the CAG on the issue would be tabled in parliament soon.

“The report will become the property of parliament and will be studied by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of parliament to recommend any action if needed,” Bansal told reporters.

“They (BJP members) are disrupting the house because they know the PAC will find no substance to target Raja in the CAG report,” he said, adding that the minister had done nothing wrong.

“He has violated no rules,” Bansal said.

The DMK also backed him. “There is no indication to our party that the Congress wants Raja to be out of the cabinet,” DMK MP T.KS. Elangovan told IANS in Chennai and hit out at Jayalalithaa for her “desperation” in “wooing” the Congress.

As the government-opposition deadlock intensified, some Congress leaders said a decision on the vexed issue, on which even the Supreme Court has spoken out, would be on hold till Prime Minister Manmohan Singh returned Friday from Seoul where he is attending the G20 summit.

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