Congress leaders discuss spectrum crisis, PM may break silence

Thursday, November 18, 2010

NEW DELHI - Top leaders of the Congress, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party president Sonia Gandhi, met here Thursday to discuss the strategy in the face of the opposition’s insistence on a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the 2G spectrum allocation allegations.

The Congress meeting came even as party spokesperson Manish Tewari said the government was ready for a debate in parliament on the allegations of wrongdoing in the allocation of 2G spectrum frequencies and other alleged scams.

Speaking to reporters, Tewari said the debate should include the functioning of the telecom ministers during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime as well.

While the Congress did not make any official statement after the two-hour meeting, party circles said the leadership has weighed a number of options.

The party meeting came in the wake of the Supreme Court asking for an affidavit detailing the prime minister’s response in the 2G spectrum case and after parliament was adjourned for the fifth successive day following opposition protests.

Congress sources said one of the options being considered was to accept the demand for a JPC into the 2G spectrum allotment, but with a longer time frame of 10 or 15 years, which will include for examination the decisions of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA government and the Communist Party of India-included National Front government.

“This will bring into the focus the role of former NDA ministers like Pramod Mahajan and Arun Shourie too,” an office-bearer of the All India Congress Committee told IANS.

Besides Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, the Congress meeting was attended by Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal, who is handling the telecom ministry and is a legal expert.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the main trouble-shooter for the government, was away in Madurai attending the wedding reception of the grandson of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK boss M. Karunanidhi. The DMK is an alliance partner of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

According to Congress circles, Manmohan Singh could make a statement in parliament Friday to defend the government on the issue.

Mukherjee, speaking to reporters in Madurai, said that the “Congress-DMK alliance was intact”.

will not be displayed