Govt for debate in LS under any rule

The corruption issue refuses to die down even after the resignation of telecom minister A. Raja on the 2G spectrum allocation issue.
While the Opposition increased pressure on the Centre for a joint parliamentary committee probe, the government rejected it outright. The issue rocked proceedings in both Houses of Parliament on Monday.

Parliament is unlikely to work on Tuesday as the Opposition is determined in its insistence on a JPC probe with the calculation that it could expose the UPA, but the government is keen on a discussion under any rule. The Opposition, which is claiming the credit for the removal of Mr Ashok Chavan as Maharashtra CM, Mr Suresh Kalmadi as CPP secretary, and now Mr Raja, feels the Centre and the Congress high command acted only under its pressure. Its main target is the Prime Minister and the Congress leadership.
The government decided to hold a meeting with leaders of all parties on Tuesday to end the deadlock. Leader of the Lok Sabha and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has invited over two dozen leaders of parties, including the BJP and the Left, for a lunch meeting to end the stalemate.
Sources said leaders of all major parties have been invited to the meeting, during which the government will appeal to them to allow Parliament to function as both Houses have not been able to transact any business in more than a week since the Winter Session commenced.
The government is daring the Opposition to corner it n Turn to Page 2
if it can with the help of rules and procedures inside Parliament, asking why it has been shying away from a debate under any rule.
Constituting JPCs has been proved a futile exercise. Since 1981, none of the four JPCs constituted could serve the purpose for which they were constituted, a Union minister said. The old concept of a JPC was to discuss important bills when department-related committees did not exist. Now there are 24 standing committees which are, sort of, mini-JPCs in themselves. Moreover, two parliamentary committees — the Estimates Committee and Public Accounts Committee — are very important committees of Parliament.
In a related development, HRD minister Kapil Sibal was given additional charge of the telecom ministry, an indication that an early reshuffle or expansion of the Union Council of Ministers may be unlikely. The PM gave this portfolio to Mr Sibal in a move that takes away the ministry from the DMK, at least for the time being. The arrangement is seen to be temporary in view of the ongoing Parliament session when issues related to the ministry are to be handled at the senior level, particularly when allegations of corruption in 2G spectrum allocation have arisen.
Mr Sibal was last week given additional charge of the ministries of science and technology and earth sciences, which fell vacant after incumbent Prithviraj Chavan was made Maharashtra CM.
Reacting to the PM’s move, DMK parliamentary party leader T.R. Baalu said party chief M. Karunanidhi has not yet decided on a successor to Mr A. Raja and suggested that Mr Sibal getting telecom as an additional charge could be a “stop-gap arrangement”.
“No one has any say on the issue except the Prime Minister. As such, our leader (Mr Karunanidhi) has not given any name to succeed Raja to the PM,” he said. “It is 100 per cent the prerogative of the PM to allot vacant portfolios. The DMK has three Cabinet slots in the UPA government, and with the exit of Raja one slot is vacant,” he said. “Our leader will take a decision on the successor after consultations with senior party leaders and then convey the name to the PM,” he said.
Meanwhile, the government will table in Parliament on Monday the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on 2G spectrum allocation. The “Performance Audit Report on the Issue of Licences and Allocation of 2G Spectrum by the Department of Telecommunications” will be tabled in the Lok Sabha by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, officials said. The presentation of the report is expected to provide fresh fodder to the Opposition, which is not satisfied with Mr Raja’s resignation.
The government, meanwhile, said the BJP demand for a JPC probe into the 2G issue was “unacceptable” and slammed the Opposition party for not allowing Parliament to function. “Why should the Prime Minister make a statement in Parliament? It is the privilege of the minister to make a statement on the floor of the House. If Raja wants to make a statement, he can do so,” Mr Mukherjee told reporters.
Going on the offensive against the BJP, he wondered whether the then Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, had made a statement in Parliament after Mr George Fernandes had resigned as defence minister in the wake of the Tehelka expose. Mr Mukherjee said the “JPC demand is absolutely unacceptable. During their six-year tenure, how many JPCs had they agreed to, including on Tehelka?”
Noting that there is a “permanent JPC in the form of the Public Accounts Committee”, Mr Mukherjee said the PAC, chaired by a member of the Opposition party, will thoroughly study the CAG report on the 2G spectrum issue. “We are destroying all the institutions,” he lamented soon after Parliament was adjourned for the fourth day following the Opposition uproar in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. “How will the system function? They (BJP) are also running governments in different parts of the country. This is a totally sad affair,” he remarked.
Home minister P. Chidambaram said, “The demand for a JPC is completely meaningless. Let the BJP allow the House to run.”
Parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Kumar Bansal also ruled a JPC probe, saying it won’t serve the purpose, and added the matter should be left to the PAC which is competent to examine the CAG report. Mr Bansal also said the government would list the CWG issue for discussion in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, which he said is an opportunity for the Opposition to allow the resumption of normal functioning of both Houses. Sports Minister M.S. Gill will speak on behalf of the government in this matter.

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