Government gives in, announces JPC (Roundup)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

NEW DELHI - The government Tuesday gave in to the opposition demand and announced a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) would be formed to probe the 2G spectrum scam, paving the way for a smooth budget session of parliament.

But the announcement came under fire from the opposition as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who made the statement in both houses of parliament, said the JPC was agreed to as the country could ill-afford disruption of the budget session of parliament.

The whole of the winter session of parliament was lost as the government then refused to accept the opposition demand for a JPC, which has the powers to summon cabinet ministers and even prime minister to depose before it.

Singh, in his statement Tuesday, the second day of the budget session, requested Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar to proceed with the setting up of the JPC and assured the houses that a formal motion in this regard would be moved soon. The process for JPC formation is expected to kick-start in a couple of days.

“Our government believed that as all effective steps were being taken, we might have been able to persuade the opposition not to insist on a JPC. We could not succeed in spite of our sincere efforts. We can ill-afford a situation where parliament is not allowed to function during the crucial budget session. It is in these special circumstances that our government agrees to the setting up of a joint parliamentary committee,” Singh said in his statement to both houses.

Noting that the 2G spectrum allocation row had cost the winter session of parliament, Singh said: “Our country can ill-afford a situation where parliament is paralysed and important legislative business is not allowed to be considered. In paralysing parliament, I believe, we all do disservice to those who have elected us.”

The BJP and other opposition parties welcomed the government’s announcement. Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj called for smooth functioning of the budget session as this was “not a win or loss for any political party, but a victory for democracy”.

However, her party colleague and Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley criticised as “tasteless” the way it was announced. The senior BJP leader said the issue could have been resolved in a more gracious manner by the prime minister, who had in his statement projected the opposition as coercing the JPC to allow a peaceful budget session.

“The statement is disappointing. The issue could be resolved in a more gracious manner,” Jaitley said, adding the content of the prime minister’s statement showed the government had done everything and the JPC was formed only because parliament was paralysed.

Jaitley said the JPC formation could have been announced “gracefully” instead of in the “tasteless” manner by projecting that the opposition had forced the government to do so. He was joined in the protest by other BJP members as also from the AIADMK.

Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Gurudas Dasgupta, welcoming the decision, said the government had only done its duty. “It’s good that good sense has prevailed upon the government. It is the PM’s responsibility to see that parliament functions.”

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