I am sad and worried: PM on parliament deadlock

By Sarwar Kashani, IANS
Saturday, December 11, 2010

ON BOARD AIR INDIA ONE - Breaking his silence on the current political confrontation over the allotment of 2G telecom spectrum licences, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday said he was “very sad” with the parliamentary deadlock and had told the opposition that the existing mechanism was good enough to look into the issue.

“It is very sad that parliament is not functioning,” Manmohan Singh told journalists traveling with him to Europe, in the wake of continuous disruption of parliament proceedings by the opposition to press its demand for a joint parliamentary committee probe into the spectrum scam.

It was not a formal press conference though, but the prime minister came to meet the reporters onboard on his way to Berlin from Brussels and was asked about the parliament deadlock over the opposition’s demand for a JPC probe.

With the government refusing to give in to the opposition demand, the controversy has led to the entire winter session washed away due to daily protests and adjournments of parliament.

“I have repeatedly told the opposition that existing institutional mechanism can take care of what a JPC can,” Manmohan Singh said.

Asked when he will break his silence on the issue, the prime minister said: “In due course” of time.

The winter session of parliament, that began Nov 9, has been rendered dysfunctional due to opposition demand for a JPC to probe the controversial allotment of airwaves to telecom companies in 2008, which is alleged to have caused huge losses to the exchequer. The session ends Monday.

“I am worried about the future of the parliamentary system. I hope reason will prevail,” the prime minister said when asked what would happen if the opposition carries over its protests to next year’s budget session as it has threatened to do.

Asked about his undertaking a foreign tour with the problems back home, Manmohan Singh said prior international commitments had to be kept if India wanted itself to be taken seriously.

“This was a pre-fixed appointment. It was decided long ago. It was an annual summit. Commitments have to be kept. Otherwise who will take us seriously?”

“In any case nothing much is happening” in parliament, he said.

The prime minister’s remarks came a day after the Bharatiya Janata Party launched an offensive against him, saying he has “lost the will to rule”.

“In a democracy, the prime minister occupies a premier position. He cannot be absent from a national debate in or out of parliament, particularly when the whole country is extremely interested in knowing the truth. On crucial domestic issues, a prime minister should not be seen as losing his will to rule,” Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said Friday.

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