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HindustanTimes Tue,30 Sep 2014

Pankaj Vohra

Congress must pull up its socks
Pankaj Vohra, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, December 26, 2010
First Published: 22:04 IST(26/12/2010)
Last Updated: 10:23 IST(23/5/2011)

The BJP's fresh attack on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the government's refusal to constitute a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe the 2G scam is part of a well-thought-out strategy. Despite allegations against some of his Cabinet ministers, Singh continues to enjoy a good image. The BJP feels that until Singh is also tarred with the same brush, its efforts to floor the government will go to waste.

In fact, Singh is the biggest stumbling block for the saffron party that hopes to come to power some day. In 2009, when the people voted the UPA to power for the second time, it was also a mandate for Singh as the PM and a rejection of LK Advani, the BJP's prime ministerial candidate.

The convincing margin with which the Congress surged ahead of the BJP was because for the first time, the Indian middle-classes (especially in metros and towns) chose to back the grand old party since Singh is an iconic figure for a large number of Indians with aspirations. The BJP now knows that until it tarnishes Singh's image, the middle-class will not vote for it. Second, by presenting the PM as a facilitator of corruption, the party feels that the Congress will have to take the charge on its chin.

The Congress, on its part, seems to have run out of ideas. It has not been able to counter the BJP and Digvijaya Singh's strategic attempt to shift the focus of the debate from corruption to communalism versus secularism does not seem to have worked. In addition, the negative perception of the government has increased thanks to the spiralling onion prices.

The Congress managers have tried to entice the BJP into accepting a debate during a special session of Parliament. The suggestion has been turned down. As things stand today, the Congress is adamant about not going for a JPC and the Opposition is keen that the 2G spectrum should be probed by a JPC alone. The BJP's demand for a JPC had its origin in the denial of an opportunity for the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj to speak.

If the deadlock continues, it is going to damage the UPA even more. A remedy could be that the government, even at this late stage, should agree to a JPC probe, which covers the telecom policy after its formulation in the early 90s. The guidelines, which opened up the sector to private players, should be examined in a new light and every telecom minister in successive governments starting from PV Narasimha Rao's time should be probed.

Since the subject is technical, the JPC should have as its advisers, experts from the telecom sector, some retired chiefs of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Comptroller and Auditor General of India as well as some former judges of the Supreme Court. This committee assisted by experts will be able to nail the discrepancies and point out the lacunae. Simultaneously, the CBI and other enforcement agencies should continue their probe. The Public Accounts Committee headed by Murli Manohar Joshi should also be allowed to complete its work as per the stipulated rules.

The Opposition has to concede that any kind of discussion on the issue can be held only in Parliament and the deadlock is serving only the purpose of not allowing an elected government to function by a party which faced rejection in 2009. The Congress, on its part, should pull up its socks and start behaving as a party in power instead of drawing attention to its possible involvement in all scams that have broken out since the beginning of the year.

The party's plenary in Delhi will be known for its poor organisation and inability of its leadership to give out a clear message. It is time for course correction. Otherwise, the countdown for this government may have begun.


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