Face JPC or quit, BJP tells PM; Congress hits back (Roundup)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

NEW DELHI - The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Wednesday asked Manmohan Singh to quit if he was not ready for a joint parliamentary probe into the spectrum scandal, but the Congress hit back, saying there was no question of the prime minister resigning.

At a “Mahasangram Rally” of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Ramlila ground here, BJP leaders came down heavily on the Congress-led government and Manmohan Singh. They also hit out at the government on the rising prices of essentials including onions.

It was the first show of strength by the BJP and its allies which are trying to broaden their coalition by sharpening attacks on the government, after unprecedented protests washed out parliament’s winter session.

BJP leader Arun Jaitley, who heads the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, asked the prime minister to give up his job if he was not ready to face a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) over the raging spectrum scandal.

He said only a JPC would be able to find out why second generation spectrum was allotted at below market prices in 2008 by the now disgraced DMK leader and former communications minister A. Raja.

The prime minister has said he was ready to face a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to answer questions but was against a JPC. Both PAC and JPC are made up of MPs from all parties but have varying mandates.

Jaitley said this was unacceptable to the opposition. “Give answers to questions being raised or resign,” he thundered.

BJP star and former deputy prime minister L.K. Advani was at his aggressive best as he accused Manmohan Singh of acting at the behest of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, addressing her as “10 Janpath”.

Advani did not echo Jaitley’s call for the prime minister’s resignation but maintained that Manmohan Singh had the power to give the go ahead for a JPC probe into the spectrum scandal.

Instead, he appealed to Manmohan Singh to give up his ‘no-JPC’ stance.

“I am making my final appeal… Please accept the demand and say what you want to say (at the JPC),” he said.

Sushma Swaraj of BJP, who heads the opposition in the Lok Sabha, was equally critical.

“Why are they afraid of JPC?” she asked, referring to the prime minister and the Congress,

Among those who attended the rally were leaders of the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), Akali Dal and Shiv Sena.

Sushma Swaraj attacked the government on price rise, saying the rising prices of food items was also linked to corruption.

The Congress took no time to reject the BJP demand that Manmohan Singh should quit.

Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi hit out at the BJP, saying it had not taken any action against its Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa although he had been charged with corruption.

“The PMO (prime minister’s office) is run in a clear, clean manner,” he said.

BJP leaders said similar NDA rallies would be held in Guwahati, Mumbai, Chennai, Kanpur, Rohtak, Ludhiana, Jaipur, Bhopal, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad in the next two months.

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