Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee spoke to Opposition leaders of both the BJP and the Left on Sunday in yet another bid to break the deadlock in Parliament, which has not been functioning for the last 11 working days. But he failed to make headway as he offered no new proposal.
Mukherjee telephoned BJP leaders LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj and CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury but none of them was prepared to budge from the stated Opposition position that the House would not be allowed to function unless the government agreed to a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) enquiry into the Rs1.76 lakh crore 2G spectrum scam.
Mukherjee told Swaraj the government believed the on-going probe by the CBI would be more effective than a JPC in pinpointing the guilty, and the government "won't mind if the Supreme Court decides to monitor the probe on a regular basis". This would obviate any chance of a cover-up.
"But our leaders made it clear to Mukherjee that Parliament was the best forum to discuss the scam and a JPC the best option," BJP leader SS Ahluwalia told HT. "Parliament could not abdicate its responsibility to the courts to get to the bottom of a scandal of such magnitude."
"The government is accountable to Parliament," Ahluwalia said. "It doesn't have any option but to concede to the Opposition's JPC demand. Even Congress allies like the Trinamool Congress are supporting us."
"We have been insisting that the spectrum issue merits an enquiry by a JPC. We continue with our demand," said Yechury, when queried about Mukherjee's call.
Mukherjee also told Advani and Swaraj that the government was against a JPC because "past experience of JPCs on issues like the Bofors scandal had not been encouraging", a BJP source revealed. The JPC on Bofors failed to pinpoint where the kickbacks given for the Bofors guns had gone.
In response, Swaraj told Mukherjee that the government's "apprehensions" were not a valid ground for rejecting the demand for a JPC.
"Besides, you have to trust us to cooperate once you accept our demand," she reportedly said.
Railway minister Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress, the UPA's biggest constituent after the Congress, has also come out in support of the Opposition's demand for a JPC in the spectrum case.