War of words continues, meet this week to break deadlock

War of words continues, meet this week to break deadlock

New Delhi: India’s two largest political parties, the ruling Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), on Tuesday continued to wrangle in public over how to investigate alleged irregularities in the allocation of second-generation (2G) telecom spectrum and licences.

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The main opposition BJP asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh not to defy rules and appear before the public accounts committee (PAC), a parliamentary audit body that is examining a report on the alleged irregularities.

The report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has indicated that mismanagement by former telecom minister A. Raja and the department of telecommunications in the allocation of 2G telephone spectrum and licences led to a notional loss of 1.76 trillion to the national exchequer.

Although no Prime Minster has ever appeared before the PAC, Singh had written to PAC chairman Murli Manohar Joshi of the opposition BJP on Monday, saying he was willing to testify.

The BJP and other opposition parties said the PAC does not have the authority to call any minister, and Singh’s offer was a bid to derail their demand for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe.

Opposition parties had closed ranks over this demand during the winter session of Parliament, allowing virtually no legislation activity.

As they threaten to do so again in the crucial budget session, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar has called an all-party meeting this week to resolve the impasse.

“As we have said earlier, the PAC is just looking into the accounts...The JPC will go into the accountability of the government," BJP spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy said on Tuesday.

But the Congress, which heads the United Progressive Alliance government, said it was not ready for a JPC probe.

Congress general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi said that by not allowing Parliament to function, the BJP was running away from debate on the issue.

Sushma Swaraj, leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, wrote in a posting on the social networking site Twitter: “If PAC is no different from JPC, then why is there a provision for JPC in the Rule book?"

Swaraj, however, also tweeted that the BJP will attend the all-party meeting called by Kumar.


PTI contributed to this story