Talks inconclusive, but government may agree on JPC (Intro Roundup)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

NEW DELHI - Indicating that the stalemate in parliament over the opposition’s demand for a JPC probe into the 2G spectrum scam could finally end, the government Tuesday told political leaders that there was nothing “dearer” to it than letting the house run smoothly.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee Tuesday met political leaders from all parties, a fortnight ahead of the crucial budget session, and conveyed to them that “nothing is dearer than running the house”, said sources present at the meeting in an indication that the government might agree to a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) to probe financial irregularities in the allocation of second-generation telephony spectrum.

According to the sources, the government has proposed to the opposition to first have a discussion in parliament followed by a JPC announcement.

However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), according to the sources, has not objected to a debate on the issue, but it wants JPC be announced first.

Though the nearly 90-minute all-party meeting at the Parliament Annexe remained inconclusive, leaders told reporters that there was consensus among all parties that parliament should function during the budget session beginning Feb 21.

“We have told the government, and I think there is a hope. We hope that government will take a decision on the JPC, approve the formation of JPC and parliament will then function properly,” Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said after the meeting.

Sushma Swaraj said the government’s feeling was that the house should run smoothly. “It is natural that we feel that the government would agree for JPC” when it was known that to run the house the opposition wanted a JPC probe, she said.

BJP leader Arun Jaitley said the “opposition is speaking in one voice” and there was no change in their stance over the JPC.

Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Gurudas Dasgupta said he was “very, very hopeful” about the government agreeing to the demand for a JPC.

Sources also told IANS that “the ice (between the government and opposition) is melting”.

“A possible way out to end the logjam would be found out before the budget session,” said a leader present at the meeting.

Another round of talks would be held on the eve of the budget session after the finance minister’s consultations with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who is chairperson of the Congress Parliamentary Party, it was learnt.

The ice-breaking talks were a renewed effort by the government’s chief trouble shooter Mukherjee to break the deadlock.

The winter session was crippled by the opposition, led by the BJP and the Left, and worries are that the three-month budget session could go the same way.

The BJP and the Left, among others, have been relentlessly sticking to their demand for a JPC probe into the scandal that has cornered the Manmohan Singh government.

The government has so far ruled out a JPC probe into the scam that cost then communications minister A. Raja of the DMK his job, months before he was arrested last week.

The BJP has declared there would be no parliament if there is no JPC. Its leader L.K. Advani maintains there is “no dilution” in the party’s stand or that of its allies in the National Democratic Alliance on the demand.

The Congress, on its part, said the acceptance or rejection of the opposition’s JPC demand should not be seen as victory or defeat.

“People who believe in democracy would want the parliament to run They should talk and not be obdurate. Every right thinking person would want the parliament to run and this is in the interest of the people,” Congress spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed said.

“It is hypothetical to consider it defeat or victory for the government We don’t want the parliament to be disrupted in the coming session,” Ahmed said, asked by reporters if the government was conceding its defeat when a JPC is announced.

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