New Delhi: The draft report of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has indicted former telecom minister A. Raja and blamed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for failing to prevent irregularities in the allocation of second-generation (2G) telecom licences.
However, the Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) differed and went public with their objections to the draft report and sought the resignation of PAC chairman Murli Manohar Joshi, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Political observers fear that the acrimonious dispute will “undermine the credibility of the political class, Parliament and institutions”.
Congress members feel that the PAC report should not bring the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) within its purview and should avoid definitive conclusions about its role in the spectrum allocation. According to a member who went through the draft report, it has criticized the Prime Minister, saying his “desire to keep the PMO at arm’s length indirectly helped” Raja, who is currently in jail, to go ahead and execute his “unfair, arbitrary and dubious designs”.
The report, according to the same member, attacked home minister P. Chidambaram for advising the PM to close the matter even after it became clear that there were irregularities in the allocation of spectrum “instead of initiating stringent and swift action” against those responsible.
While PMO said it would react only after the report comes out, Chidambaram told NDTV 24x7, “Is this the finding of the PAC or Mr Joshi?”
Experts feel that the public airing of the differences within PAC will be damaging to Indian democracy and its institutions, especially at a time when there is a question on the credibility of the government and the political class. “In this climate, the most important thing the PAC should have done was to come out with a 100% credible report, following all leads. It should have done a better job,” pointed out Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president of Centre for Policy Research, a Delhi-based think tank.
“This kind of public arguments will exaggerate the damage on the credibility of the institutions. The same could happen to the JPC too... it is also undermining the credibility of the political class,” he added. JPC refers to the joint parliamentary committee.
Singh and his United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government have been mired in a series of corruption charges and controversies ever since it returned to power in the 2009 general election.
Hours after Joshi internally distributed the 300-page draft report on PAC’s investigation into the 2G scam, members belonging to the Congress and the DMK held a news conference to allege that Joshi had prepared the draft with “an intent to destabilize the Congress-led government”.
“Joshi should resign as PAC chairman, we fear he may table the report without our view,” K.S. Rao, a Congress lawmaker and a member of the panel, told reporters. “Many of the statements herein are false, malicious and perverse, the conclusions are biased and predetermined.” Rao said panel members did not have time to study the draft report.
PAC is expected to meet on Thursday to finalize its inquiry report. Its term ends on 30 April.
Tiruchi Siva, a DMK leader on the panel, said the UPA members have “rejected the recommendations and conclusions of the draft report” and would seek Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar’s intervention.
Rao said Joshi could continue only if he agrees to take a “unanimous” view of the committee in the final report. Rao as well other party leaders insisted that Raja and Arun Shourie, telecom minister during the BJP-led government in 2003, should also be given a chance to appear before PAC before finalizing the report. The Congress had earlier suggested that PAC should not continue its investigation into 2G as a JPC headed by party member of Parliament P.C. Chacko has already begun probing the matter.