New Delhi: Representatives of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and some of its allies stayed away from the first meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in a move aimed at embarrassing the committee’s head, Jaswant Singh, who was recently expelled from the party and who has ignored requests to step down from the post.
Only 15 of PAC’s 22 members attended the meeting on Monday. Of the seven absentees, three were from the BJP—Yashwant Sinha, Gopinath Munde and Shanta Kumar—and two from its allies, Anandrao Adsul (the Shiv Sena) and Sharad Joshi (the Swatantra Bharat Paksh).
“Yes, it was a decision of the party to not attend the PAC meet. I had personally made the request to Jaswant Singh to leave the post of the chairman, which belongs to BJP. He declined the request publicly; now we are again requesting him publicly for the same,” said Sushma Swaraj, deputy leader of the BJP in Lok Sabha.
Shanta Kumar said he missed the meeting because of prior “engagements”.
Out of favour: Expelled BJP leader Jaswant Singh leaves after chairing the PAC meeting in New Delhi on Monday. Kamal Kishore / PTI
Mint couldn’t independently confirm with the other BJP representatives who missed the meeting, their reasons for doing so.
According to the party, Sinha is in Ranchi, Jharkhand, where the BJP wants polls to be held, and Munde is busy preparing for polls in his state, Maharashtra. Party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar declined comment on the absence of the party’s representatives from the meeting and said he was not aware of it.
However, a representative of the Janata Dal (United), N.K. Singh, a member of the Rajya Sabha, attended the meeting of the committee, which is constituted by Parliament each year to examine the government’s accounts. Singh, being the most senior among the four members from the BJP nominated to PAC, was named its chairman a few days before he was expelled by the party.
Singh stuck to his stand of not resigning from the post: “I am not (going to resign). This cannot be a decision that the party can take because the determination of the post and the decision is that of the Lok Sabha Speaker and not of a political party.” The new Public Accounts Committee appointed by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar has eight members from the Congress, two each from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the AIADMK, and one each from the Shiv Sena, Bahujan Samaj Party, Biju Janata Dal, Samajwadi Party and Swatantra Bharat Paksh, apart from the four BJP members.
After expulsion, Jaswant Singh continues to represent the Darjeeling constituency of West Bengal as an “unattached” member in the Lok Sabha. He was elected on the party’s ticket. Subhash Kashyap, constitutional expert and former general secretary of the Lok Sabha, said if BJP members had stayed away deliberately, it would amount to “impropriety”.
PTI contributed to this story.