Manmohan offer to face PAC seen as masterstroke

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday offered to appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament on the 2G spectrum allocation issue, making it clear that he has nothing to hide. His offer could puncture the Opposition’s campaign for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) to probe the entire issue.

He said that “like Caesar’s wife, the Prime Minister should be above suspicion” and it was for this reason that he was prepared to appear before the PAC.
Dr Singh’s remarks come at a time when the Opposition parties have planned to address meetings across India on the alleged corruption in allocation of 2G spectrum, the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, the Adarsh Housing Society scam in Mumbai and the Radia tapes — which reveal a nexus between politicians, lobbyists, business tycoons and the media — from December 22. Opposition unity had even led to a logjam affecting the entire Winter Session of Parliament.
But Dr Singh’s readiness to appear before the PAC is seen in political circles as a masterstroke for the Opposition parties have been trying to link the PM to the 2G controversy. Speaking at the 83rd Congress Plenary Session, Dr Singh said, “The BJP has been falsely propagating that the UPA government is against the JPC because we do not want the Prime Minister to be questioned by a parliamentary committee, thereby implying that I have something to hide. I wish to state categorically that I have nothing to hide from the public at large and as proof of my bona fides I intend to write to the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee that I shall be happy to appear before the PAC if it chooses to ask me to do so.”
“As Prime Minister of this great country for six-and-a-half years, I have tried to serve my country to the best of my ability. I sincerely believe that like Caesar’s
wife, the Prime Minister should be above suspicion and it is for this reason that I am prepared to appear before the PAC even though there is no precedent to that effect,” Dr Singh said.
The Prime Minister added, “... you know that the CAG report on 2G spectrum is being examined by the PAC, which itself is a joint parliamentary committee presided over by a senior leader of the BJP, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi. The PAC has all the powers which can be given to a JPC and the PAC is the acknowledged watchdog of any financial impropriety or misconduct,” he said.
The PAC’s report will be placed before Parliament and will be debated in Parliament. The government is obliged to take action on the recommendations of the PAC. The government is of the considered view that in the background of multi-faced action now in place, no purpose will be served by a JPC except to delay the inquiry and politicise the matter, Dr Singh said and turned down the Opposition’s demand for a JPC probe.
He said the Congress plenary is taking place at a time when “various charges are being levelled against our party and our government”. “Our objectives and principles are being suspected. Our record is being questioned for partisan political ends. It is being alleged that we are not sufficiently sensitive to the issue of corruption. On this count, I want to make our government’s, and our party’s, stand unambiguously clear. We have always striven to eradicate corruption and we will continue to do so,” Dr Singh said.
“Our approach to corruption also gets clearly reflected in our actions. Whether at the Centre or in the states, we have asked our ministers and chief ministers to step down merely on the basis of suspicion because we practice and believe in principled politics. We are not like some Opposition parties which insist on retaining their tainted chief ministers despite scandal after scandal,” he added.
The PM said a “thorough probe” is being conducted into all aspects of the organisation of the Commonwealth Games and 2G spectrum allocation. “These inquiries will be pursued vigorously. And it is my promise to you that no guilty person will be spared — whether he is a political leader or a government official, whichever party he may belong to and howsoever powerful he may be,” Dr Singh said.
Dr Singh added that if there are any shortcomings in the functioning of the government, they would address them “so that we can be more effective in our efforts to contain corruption. I seek the cooperation of all members of the Congress party in this endeavour.”
He said they wanted to discuss all these issues in Parliament but an entire session had been wasted because of the Opposition’s obduracy. “It is difficult to comprehend the Opposition’s insistence that only a JPC should probe the 2G spectrum matter. All aspects of the 2G spectrum allocation are being probed anyway. As soon as the report of
CAG was received, the concerned minister resigned. As per the relevant rules, the report has been sent to the PAC. We have even proposed that a multi-disciplinary investigative agency can help the committee in its work. As far as the allegations of corruption in spectrum allocation are concerned, the CBI is looking into them and now this investigation will be monitored by the Supreme Court.”
He added that besides all these measures, a retired Supreme Court judge has been appointed to examine any administrative and procedural lapses. “Parliament is the best forum to keep a watch on and improve the functioning of the government. Parliament is at the centre of our democratic edifice. One wonders what kind of politics the Opposition believes in when they do not have faith even in Parliament,” he said.

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