Delhi, Feb. 22: Giving in to Opposition demands, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday announced the government’s decision to set up a JPC into the 2G spectrum scam, saying the country could “ill afford” disruption of the crucial Budget session of Parliament.
Making the announcement in Lok Sabha as soon as it met for the first working day of the session, Dr Singh said a formal motion for constitution of the Joint Parliamentary Committee would be moved soon.
“We could not succeed in spite of our sincere efforts” to persuade the Opposition not to insist on a JPC probe, Dr Singh said.
Asserting that his government was committed to root out corruption, the Prime Minister said “all effective steps” were taken to convince the Opposition in this regard.
“We can ill afford a situation where Parliament is not allowed to function during the crucial Budget session. It is in these special circumstances that our government agrees to the setting up of a JPC,” he said.
Dr Singh requested Speaker Meira Kumar to proceed with the process of formation of the JPC and said a formal motion would be moved soon.
Welcoming the government’s move, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj thanked the Prime Minister and Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee for the decision.
“We should not see this as a victory or defeat. This is a victory of democracy. We should all work together putting aside any talk of victory or defeat,” she said.
Recalling that the Winter session of Parliament had been lost on account of controversy over 2G spectrum allocation, Dr Singh said, “In paralysing Parliament, I believe, we all do disservice to those who have elected us.”
The opposition has been adamant on a JPC probe in the 2G scam, which according to CAG, has resulted in a presumptive loss to the tune of Rs 1.76 lakh crore.
A Raja, who was forced to resign as Telecom Minister three months back, is now in jail.
Dubbing it as the biggest scam in independent India, the opposition had made it clear that it would not allow the Budget session to function properly if the JPC was not announced on Tuesday.
Insisting that the government was committed to root out corruption, the Prime Minister listed the steps taken by the government on the 2G issue which included CBI investigation supervised by the Supreme Court and the independent inquiry conducted by former judge Shivraj Patil.
He also pointed out that the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament was also seized of the matter and the government was fully cooperating with it.
“We are a functioning democracy and must strive to resolve our differences in a spirit of accommodation and collaboration, not confrontation,” he said, hoping that it would “renew our confidence in India’s forward march.”
1st JPC to be set up since the Congress-led UPA came to power
The government has already made it clear that a formal motion for creation of the JPC would be moved on Thursday by Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal.
This would be the first JPC to be set up since the Congress-led UPA came to power in May 2004.
AIADMK leader M Thambidurai demanded representation for all political leaders on the JPC to ensure that there was no feeling of neglect among the members.
Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI) said he would not like to thank the Prime Minister for agreeing to the opposition demand for a JPC.
‘Good wisdom has dawned upon the government’
He said it was better late than never that “good wisdom has dawned upon the government” which led to the announcement of a JPC to probe the 2G spectrum scam.
“This is not a question of thanking or complimenting the government or the Prime Minister. The Government and the Prime Minister had only done their duty by responding to the opposition demand and ensuring that Parliamentary norms are adhered to,” he said.
SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav said the delay in announcing formation of the JPC had affected the credibility of the government.
“The people of the country have come to know that the government had something to hide,” he said.
Judiciary and media are actively involved in probing the issue
NDA convenor Sharad Yadav wanted that the JPC should also go into alleged irregularities in the conduct of Commonwealth Games, the S-Band issue relating to ISRO and the Adarsh housing scam.
He said the judiciary and media were actively involved in probing the issue and the announcement by the Prime Minister would also allow Parliament to be part of the exercise.
Basudeb Acharia (CPI-M), Arjun Charan Sethi (BJD), K Chandrasekhar Rao (TRS) and Raghuvansh Prasad (RJD) also welcomed the announcement of formation of the JPC.
‘The issue could be resolved in a more gracious manner’
In the Rajya Sabha, the Prime Minister made a similar statement on the JPC formation.
Soon after he completed, Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitely said he was “disappointed” over the contents of the statement.
“The issue could be resolved in a more gracious manner,” he said adding the content of the PM’s statement showed the government had done everything and the JPC was formed only because Parliament was paralysed.
Jaitely said the formation of the JPC could have been done in a graceful way rather than in a “tasteless” manner by projecting that the opposition had coerced the government to do so.
BJP members, including S S Ahluwalia and Ravi Shankar Prasad, as also AIAMDK member M Maitreyan took objection to the content of the PM’s statement.
Deputy Chairman K Rahman Khan disallowed members saying it was agreed that no discussion would take place on the statement.