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Govt blinks, may agree to JPC probe

Govt blinks, may agree to JPC probe
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First Published: Wed, Feb 09 2011. 08 19 AM IST
Updated: Wed, Feb 09 2011. 08 19 AM IST
New Delhi: The logjam in Parliament is likely to end with the opposition indicating the government’s willingness to constitute a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) to probe into the alleged acts of corruption.
Significantly, the government did not deny the claim, thereby suggesting that the decks could be cleared for the forthcoming budget session scheduled to begin on 21 February. The government, as per convention, has to present the Union budget to Parliament before 28 February.
At the third meeting convened by Pranab Mukherjee, leader of the Lok Sabha, on Tuesday, the government indicated that it might agree to a JPC probe into the corruption charges against it, said at least two leaders who attended the meeting.
However, no official announcement has been made. To be sure, any such announcement, keeping with Parliament convention, has to be made on the floor of the House.
The second term of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance has witnessed a series of setbacks following allegations of graft in the awarding of second-generation (2G) telecom licences, preparations for the Commonwealth Games and the irregularities in the allotment of flats in Adarsh Housing Cooperative Society in Mumbai meant for war widows. The month-long winter session of Parliament had been blocked by a united opposition demanding a parliamentary probe into the scams. However, the government had rejected the demand.
Said a senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, who did not want to be named, “The sense is that there is a definite softening of stance in the government and they are inching towards agreeing to a JPC. It was quite obvious that there were disagreements and swollen faces even within the (ruling) party, and the government’s morale seems very low.”
“The government has indicated that it could move a motion in the House for constituting a JPC, for which the details have to be worked out. The final announcement cannot be made now as it can only be done in Parliament,” said a Left leader, who attended Tuesday’s meeting. The leader also pointed out that Mukherjee, also the finance minister, admitted in the meeting that “no price is higher than the price of restoring normalcy in Parliament”.
Leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha and senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj told reporters immediately after the meeting: “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 formation of JPC and Parliament will function properly.”
“We don’t want Parliament should be disrupted in the budget session. Every responsible person wants that Parliament should run...the opposition should come to Parliament, discuss and debate, and then Parliament will decide a way forward,” Congress spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed said.
The BJP insists that there should be an “unequivocal” declaration that a JPC would inquire into all the major alleged scams and the government should move a motion in that respect after which there could be a debate over it. While all other parties maintained there should be a JPC, but were not in favour of stalling the proceedings, the BJP continued to stick to its demand for a parliamentary probe to ensure the functioning of Parliament.
Mukherjee, who assured the political party leaders that he would get back after consulting the Prime Minister, will hold another all-party meeting before the session begins.
The government had been arguing that there was no need for a parliamentary team probe because the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is probing all the three allegations, a judicial committee has submitted a report on 2G spectrum allocation and the Public Accounts Committee is examining the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report on the telecom licence scam.
Former telecom minister A. Raja has been accused of conspiring to benefit companies. Raja, who had denied any wrongdoing, is currently under CBI custody.
In the Adarsh scam, former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan had to quit his post for an inquiry.
liz.m@livemint.com
PTI contributed to this story.
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First Published: Wed, Feb 09 2011. 08 19 AM IST