Congress in a fix over adoption of JPC report on 2G spectrum5 min read . Updated: 27 Sep 2013, 07:46 AM IST
Adopting draft report will alienate the party’s ally DMK in Tamil Nadu, while not endorsing it will strengthen BJP
New Delhi: The Congress party is on the horns of a dilemma ahead of Friday’s Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) meet which is expected to adopt its report on irregularities in the allocation of second generation (2G) spectrum.
Adopting the draft report will alienate the Congress’s ally the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and jeopardize whatever chances the party has in Tamil Nadu in the forthcoming general election. Not adopting it will strengthen the hand of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has acquired significant political momentum under the leadership of Narendra Modi.
Even as JPC chairman P.C. Chacko scrambled to rally the 30-member panel to adopt the controversial draft report that has given both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and finance minister P. Chidambaram a clean chit while indicting former telecom minister and DMK leader A. Raja, the party’s leadership is preparing for both scenarios.
According to two Congress leaders, including one from Tamil Nadu, JPC’s adoption of the draft report in the current form would damage the party’s prospects of putting up a formidable electoral alliance in Tamil Nadu.
“The party is already in discussions with film star-turned-politician Vijayakanth’s Desiya Murpoku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK). A combination of DMK-DMDK-Congress is an electoral force (Tamil Nadu chief minister) J. Jayalalitha is worried about. The report that clears both the PM and finance minister and blaming Raja would spoil our efforts," said a Congress leader from Tamil Nadu.
The adoption of the JPC report won’t change anything, said another analyst.
Gnani Sankaran, a Chennai- based political analyst, said the adoption of the report is unlikely to affect a possible alliance between the Congress and the DMK, which had withdrawn from the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government earlier this year over the latter’s Sri Lankan policy. “The DMK is unlikely to give up the idea of an alliance with Congress for the election. The DMK-DMDK-Congress trio can put up a good fight with the AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam), although it is not likely to outnumber the AIADMK."
Recent opinion polls have shown that the UPA is increasingly losing its popularity due to a series of controversies and corruption scandals. Persistent inflation and the poor state of economy have further dented its appeal. The Congress won 206 of 543 Lok Sabha constituencies in the 2009 election.
Chacko, who has rejected the DMK’s appeal to defer the 27 September meeting to a date after October, appeared to be confident that he would have the numbers to get the draft report adopted.
“On Friday afternoon, when the JPC meets, the chairman will propose that the meeting will adopt the draft report. He will accept the dissent notes and will announce it as adopted. If everyone agrees, the report can be unanimously adopted. But if the opposition wants a vote, it will be put to vote. We have the numbers," said a Congress leader familiar with the developments who did not want to be identified.
JPC, which was set up in March 2011 to examine matters relating to allocation and pricing of telecom licences and spectrum has 20 members from the Lok Sabha and 10 from the Rajya Sabha. The UPA has 12 members—the Congress has 11 and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has one. The Bahujan Samaj Party has two members and the Samajwadi Party has one; both parties are likely to vote with the Congress.
Apart from the BJP’s six members, the Biju Janata Dal, the Trinamool Congress, the Communist Party of India, the Communist Party of India-Marxist, the DMK, the AIADMK and the Janata Dal (United), or JD(U), have one member each in the panel. There is one nominated member from the Rajya Sabha.
A second Congress leader, who too declined to be identified, said the report would be adopted although there will likely be a vote. “The BJP does not want the report to be adopted as it has put equal responsibility of whatever irregularities took place under the (BJP-led) NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government," he said. The Left parties are not in favour of rejecting the report, but are keen to submit dissent notes. Although the NCP had earlier demanded Raja should be called before the panel to give his version—a demand that was rejected by the chairman—it has decided to vote with the Congress.
The new-found bonhomie between the Congress and the JD(U) seems to have inspired Sharad Yadav to take a stand in favour of the UPA. Yadav said he has told Chacko that he will give dissent notes, but will not reject the report completely. “We don’t agree with the report and we will give dissent notes. There is a constitutional provision to give dissent notes if we don’t agree with some content of the report. There is no reason to reject the report or stall the proceedings of the meeting," said Yadav.
The DMK has been consistently demanding that Raja should appear before JPC and give his side of the story.
“We have been saying that former telecom minister A. Raja should be called. All documents, especially documents given by DoT (the department of telecommunications) to court, were not provided to JPC. How can P.C. Chacko claim that the report is complete," said T.R. Baalu of the DMK, who is a member of JPC.
Meanwhile, BJP leaders are in a combative mood.
Former finance minister Yashwant Sinha has taken the initiative to mobilize forces to get the report rejected. BJP leaders argue that the draft report is incomplete as long as Raja, Singh and Chidambaram do not appear before the committee. The opposition leaders also feel that the draft report was purposefully leaked to the media to take the sting out of the BJP’s campaign against the UPA’s corruption.
“Yashwant Sinha is talking to (other) members of the opposition," said a senior BJP leader who is a member of JPC.
Sinha has earlier tried to bring together all the opposition parties to get the report rejected and also to press a demand to get the Prime Minister to appear before the panel.
“We want the report to be rejected. We will try for that," said Ravi Shankar Prasad, deputy leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha.