Opposition attacks PM; DMK-Congress alliance stands, says Pranab (Roundup)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

NEW DELHI - Even as the opposition Thursday attacked the prime minister over his “silence” on the 2G spectrum allocation allegations, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said that the Congress-DMK alliance would continue.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has asked for an affidavit detailing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s response on the plea to prosecute Raja, who resigned as telecommunications and IT minister on Sunday. The opposition said the prime minister’s silence on the issue implied consent.

The issue again rocked parliament as the opposition insisted on a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into improper allocation of 2G frequencies to telecom companies by Raja that is estimated to have cost the exchequer Rs.176,000 crore (Rs.1.76 trillion/approx $39 billion).

Speaking in Madurai, Mukherjee said the alliance with the DMK would continue. “Our alliance began in 2004 and has completed six-and-half years. The alliance working for the socio-economic development of the country will continue.” He was speaking at the wedding of fellow cabinet minister M.K. Alagiri’s son Dayanidhi.

Mukherjee said the Congress and the DMK understood each other well and their electoral tie-up would continue. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi did not attend the wedding but sent best wishes to the newly weds.

In New Delhi, the Congress leadership met at the prime minister’s residence with Sonia Gandhi, Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal, who is handling the telecom ministry and is a legal expert, among others, in attendance.

The Supreme Court asked Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam to file an affidavit by Saturday, detailing the government’s response to a petition by Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy seeking sanction to prosecute Raja.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court had taken exception to the 11-month “silence” of the prime minister on Swamy’s public interest litigation. The court direction came after the solicitor general told the court that the government has responded in action to Swamy’s application.

“Every letter of Swamy has been dealt with,” the solicitor general told the court.

“The solicitor general has either been misled by the PM’s Office or misinformed the court,” Swamy later told reporters.

“I am suggesting that the solicitor general is either embroidering or stretching the truth. He is taking even routine acknowledgment as reply.”

He then said the government should come clean that it could not take action against Raja due to “pressure”.

“He (prime minister) is a nice man, but obviously a weak man,” said Swamy.

The opposition was quick to pounce on the ruling United Progressive Alliance.

“Now even the Supreme Court has asked the prime minister to file an affidavit on why he was silent on the 2G scam. In the history of independent India it has never happened that the Supreme Court has had to question the prime minister,” Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Prakash Javadekar told reporters outside parliament.

Javadekar added: “Raja said he had sought the prime minister’s permission for everything he did. It makes him (prime minister) equally responsible, he must come out with a clarification.”

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) MP Brinda Karat agreed and said: “It is embarrassing that for the first time in the history of India, the Supreme Court has had to take the name of the prime minister and ask why he was silent.”

Her colleague in the Rajya Sabha Sitaram Yechury said: “The prime minister will have to respond.”

The AIADMK alleged that the prime minister was quiet because people at high levels were involved. The AIADMK is the main opposition party in Tamil Nadu where Raja’s party DMK leads the government.

AIADMK leader V. Maitreyan told reporters: “We demand a JPC and we want the prime minister to come clean on this. Till the government agrees to a JPC, (there will be) no parliament.”

The prime minister may make a statement in parliament Friday on the issue, sources said.

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