Govt, Opp. see hope for Budget Session

The government and the Opposition on Tuesday moved closer on the issue of constitution of a joint parliamentary committee to probe the 2G spectrum scam, sending out a signal that the stalemate on it could break in the Budget Session of Parliament beginning February 21.

At a meeting of the floor leaders in Parliament called by Leader of the Lok Sabha and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee at the Parlia-ment Annexe Tuesday afternoon, the government did not reiterate its opposition to a JPC.
If insiders are to be believed, Mr Mukherjee told the meeting that no price is dearer than running Parliament.
Opposition leaders, including Mr L.K. Advani and Ms Sushma Swaraj (BJP), Mr Sharad Yadav (JD-U), Mr Mohan Singh (SP), Mr Sitaram Yechury and Mr Basudeb Acharia (CPI-M), Mr Gurudas Dasgupta and Mr D. Raja (CPI), Mr M.V. Mysura Reddy (TDP), and Mr Bharatkumar Raut and Mr Ganeshrao Dudhgaonkar (Shiv Sena) were optimistic of a positive outcome by February 20.
The sources said even Mr Sudip Bandyopadhyay (Trinamul) did not oppose the demand of a JPC. NCP chief and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar was said to have suggested that floor leaders could be unofficially conveyed any decision on the constitution of a JPC before the session.
Besides Mr Mukherjee, the other ministers present at the meeting included Mr P. Chidambaram, Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal, Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad and Dr Farooq Abdullah. Mr Mukherjee assured the leaders he would get back to them after consulting the Prime Minister. After the meeting, Mr Mukherjee merely said it had been a “very good” discussion.
PM Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi will have to take a call on this issue against the backdrop of a washed-out Winter Session of Parliament and the possibility of the constitution of a JPC embarrassing the institution of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Barring the BSP, no political party was said to have opposed the demand for a JPC. According to sources, Mr Advani was said to have told the meeting that the positive developments should not be seen as a retreat by the government.
Meanwhile, coming out of the hour-long all-party meeting, Opposition leaders claimed there was “consensus” on the JPC issue and that both sides were keen that Parliament must function.
“The allies of the government, too, say they have no problems with a JPC. We have told the government, and I think there is hope... that first the government will take a decision, approve the formation of JPC, and Parliament will function properly (sic),” Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj told reporters after the meeting. She, however, said a formal proposal from the government is yet to come.
Government sources said that as of the moment it cannot be said that the government is “open to a JPC”, but, if a resolution for formation of a JPC is moved, a discussion will suit it. Opposition leaders said there will be another all-party meeting on the eve of the Budget Session.
Asked whether the government was finally conceding a JPC, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said the Opposition is speaking in one voice and, till February 21, “our stand will be unanimously for setting up of a JPC”.
Asked whether the BJP will be ready for a discussion before the formation of a JPC, he said, “Let them agree. With uncertainty over a JPC gone, whether there is debate or no debate, it becomes academic.”
The meeting saw Opposition leaders ranging from the Left to the Right emphasising the need for a JPC so that the three-month-long Budget Session can run smoothly. “We have made our point clear to the government. It is not a question of a retreat by the government or the victory of the Opposition. It is a question of great magnanimity. Please accept the demand for a JPC,” Mr Gurudas Dasgupta said, adding that he was “very, very hopeful about the situation”.
CPI(M) Parliamentary Party leader Sitaram Yechury said two things emerged from the meeting. “One is that the House should function and the JPC should be formed. Government will have to work out a proposal.” The SP’s Mohan Singh said there was a general consensus on the issue of a JPC. “The government did not say anything but listened to us,” he said. Striking a similar note, the CPI’s D. Raja said the overwhelming view in the meeting was for a JPC. “I don’t think the government can ignore the views expressed by the political parties. I hope a positive solution will emerge when we come to the Parliament Session,” he said.
The CPI(M)’s Basudev Acharia said, “We do not agree to voting on a resolution. The government should come forward with a proposal and that should be on the floor of the House.”
BJP Parliamentary Party chief and NDA working chairman L.K. Advani, summing up the Opposition viewpoint towards the end of the meeting, said neither should the government think that accepting the JPC demand would be a defeat, nor should the Opposition treat it as a victory. “Advani said the general opinion in the country was in favour of a JPC probe and the government should be gracious enough to agree to it even without the Opposition pressing for it,” a leader present at the meeting said.
DMK leader T.R. Baalu reportedly said Parliament should first pass the annual Budget and complete all financial business, and then think of discussing the JPC issue. Though no member intervened, several Opposition MPs exchanged smiles when Mr Baalu made this suggestion.

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