The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday said the Congress was "not serious" about fighting corruption, after finance minister Pranab Mukherjee's said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not consult anyone before offering to appear before parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) over the 2G spectrum scandal.
"This shows the Congress is not at all serious about investigating corruption cases. It is making a mockery of the whole issue," BJP spokesman Tarun Vijay said.
He was reacting to Mukherjee's remarks in Kolkata earlier in the day that the prime minister made the offer to appear before the PAC, which is looking into the 2008 2G spectrum allocation to mobile companies, without consulting anyone.
The finance minister also said that he would have advised the prime minister against it as he (prime minister) was accountable to the entire Lok Sabha and not just a part of it.
"Nobody knows if the PM was serious when he assured that he would appear before the PAC. Nobody knows what prompted Mr. Mukherjee to say that he (prime minister) should not appear (before the PAC)," Vijay said.
He said the BJP has been insisting on a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the 2G spectrum controversy. "We firmly stick to our demand for JPC," he said.
"Pranab Da's and Manmonhan Singh's confusing statements on the PAC indicate the non-serious nature of the Congress leadership on the issue of corruption," Vijay said.
Asked if there were differences between the two senior Congress leaders on the issue of the prime minister's appearance before the PAC, Vijay said: "The Congress hardly remains cohesive."
Mukherjee told a meeting of Congress functionaries in Kolkata that the prime minister had declared, without consulting anyone else, that he was prepared to appear before the PAC.
Last month, the prime minister said he was making an "unprecedented" offer to appear before the PAC which was going into the scam, based on the Comptroller and Auditor General's report on the sale of 2G spectrum at below-market prices, causing huge losses to the government.
He also wrote to PAC chief and BJP leader M.M. Joshi expressing his willingness to appear before the panel.
Mukherjee's remarks came two days after Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar unsuccessfully made a fresh attempt to break the stalemate in parliament over the opposition's demand for a JPC probe into the scandal.
The winter session (Nov 9-Dec 13, 2010) was marked by daily disruptions and adjournments following the logjam over the JPC probe demand.
The opposition has threatened to carry forward its protest to the budget session that begins in the last week of February.
Senior BJP leader L.K. Advani had earlier spoken of varying opinions in the Congress on the opposition's JPC demand.
Advani said at a National Democratic Alliance (NDA) rally in Delhi last month that he had been told by a United Progressive Alliance (UPA) minister during the stalemate in parliament that the prime minister had no objection to a JPC and a meeting of ministers was to be called for the purpose.