New Delhi: Alleging that two ministers were under cloud for “gross misuse of power”, the Opposition on Friday mounted pressure for a JPC probe into the IPL controversy, prompting the government to say it could be done only after “due diligence”.
A strident Opposition stalled proceedings by raising anti-government slogans and forced adjournments in both Houses of Parliament.
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Responding to the demands, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said in Lok Sabha,“It (a decision on JPC) is to be taken after due diligence and consideration. It cannot be like instant coffee or instant consideration.”
Observing that the government will have to ponder over it, Mukherjee, who is also the Leader of the Lok Sabha, said, “I will communicate your sentiments to the Prime Minister. As and when the government takes a decision, we will come to Parliament. Let us wait for some time.”
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While the Lok Sabha witnessed two adjournments till 2pm, Rajya Sabha was adjourned till 230pm.
In the Lok Sabha, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj raised the IPL controversy as soon as the House met for the day. She said the issue was getting “more serious by the day” and a JPC probe should be ordered “to save the dignity of the House and to bring to light the whole issue”.
Swaraj said allegations were flying thick and fast that two senior ministers in the government had a role to play in the controversy.
Though she did not name any minister, her attack came against the backdrop of reports that civil aviation minister Praful Patel had given details of projections of new franchisee valuations to Shashi Tharoor two days before the Kochi IPL team was bid.
There are also allegations that a close relative of a senior minister, belonging to a UPA partner, had benefitted.
Swaraj said now reports had come out that the ministers had indulged in “gross misuse of power” including diversion of a civilian aircraft for the IPL players.
She was apparently referring to the civil aviation minister, whose daughter is reported to have pulled out an Air India plane from scheduled Delhi-Coimbatore flight to ferry IPL players from Chandigarh to Chennai, causing inconvenience to passengers booked on the flight.
“The whole issue (of IPL) should be probed. The Leader of the House had said they are ready to probe. We feel investigating agencies will not be able to bring the truth to the fore. From day one of the episode, we have demanded that JPC be constituted to look into this,” Swaraj said.
Supporting her, JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav said there were “all sorts of allegations” against IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi “of looting the whole system from here to Rajasthan”.
Pressing for accountability for the cricket T20 league too, he said IPL should be answerable to Parliament and the whole country.
Yadav said sports minister M.S. Gill was talking as if he was in the Opposition, but nobody took note of it.
Alleging that “illegal money” from both Mauritius and Swiss banks had been invested in IPL, the JD(U) member said it was necessary for constituting the JPC to probe all aspects of the tournament.
“JPC must be constituted, only then will there be some credibility as there are allegations of involvement of two ministers in the controversy,” he added.
Underlining the “urgent need” for constituting JPC, CPI-M leader Basudeb Acharia referred to such a probe ordered in the 1991 securities scam by the P.V. Narasimha Rao government when Manmohan Singh was the finance minister.
“I urge the government to find the truth and fix responsibility for such large scale corruption. JPC should be constituted immediately,” he said.
Alleging that IPL was the ”biggest gambling”, Acharia said new facts were tumbling out every day.
“This is not cricket, it is business. They have used the Mauritius route to pump in thousands of crores of rupees and the government was sleeping. Unless there is JPC, truth will not come out,” he said.
CPI member Gurudas Dasgupta termed the IPL controversy as the “most serious fraud in the history of Independent India” and said “unpardonable violation of law has taken place for the last two years right under the nose of the government”.
He said the Income Tax department had informed a parliamentary standing committee that there could be no assessment of the IPL for 21 months.
“I, as a tax payer, am assessed every year. Why IPC is given amnesty and unpardonable privilege,” he wondered.
He said the government should ponder over “gross failure” of the enforcement agencies.
Mukherjee said when the issue was raised earlier by the Opposition, he had informed the House that the concerned department had already started investigation and was asked to carry on with their raids.
He said the notice from some of the opposition members for suspension of the Question Hour was given to the Speaker and that he only received information about it.
The opposition members were not satisfied with Mukherjee’s response and continued to create uproar, forcing Speaker Meira Kumar to adjourn the House till 12 noon.
When the House re-assembled, similar scenes were witnessed, forcing its adjournment till 2pm.
In the Rajya Sabha, the IPL issue was raised during Zero Hour with the entire opposition, including members of the BJP, AIADMK, SP and the Left parties, on their feet demanding JPC probe into the controversy.
Deputy Chairman K. Rahman Khan said the matter had already been discussed on Thursday during debate on demands for grants for sports ministry.
He urged them to take their seats but the opposition members did not relent, prompting Khan to adjourn the House till 230pm.