The fortnight-long stalemate in parliament over the alleged 2G scam is unlikely to end on Monday as an unrelenting opposition on Sunday rebuffed the government's fresh request to it to give up the demand for a joint parliamentary panel probe into the scandal.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday spoke to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders Sushma Swaraj and LK Advani in a bid to to break the parliament logjam over the demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the controversial second generation telephony spectrum allotment of 2008.
Swaraj, a new entrant on micro-blogging site Twitter, wrote Sunday afternoon: “Mukherji spoke to me & Advaniji some time back and told that JPC was not possible.”
The Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha said the finance minister “appealed that we give up our demand for JPC... We told Pranab Mukherjee that we could not give up demand for JPC".
The parliament logjam during the winter session that began Nov 9 has stalled the legislative business of the government.
The two houses had some 115 working hours scheduled in the first 11 days of the session. The opposition, which has united over the 2G issue, and the government are blaming each other for the wasted parliament time that has also cost the national exchequer over Rs.80 crore.
According to the PRS Legislative Research, the Lok Sabha has met for only 5.37 hours in 11 days of the session, which is only nine percent of the scheduled time.
The Rajya Sabha on the other had met for mere 1.14 hours, according to the PRS.
BJP parliamentary party spokesperson S.S. Ahluwalia said the opposition was ready “to cooperate”.
“But they have to accept our demand for setting up a JPC to probe into the 2G scam worth Rs 1.76 lakh crore," Ahluwalia told IANS.
Earlier on in the weekend, efforts by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Mukherjee and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal to reach out to the opposition for ending the stalemate have failed.
The government is sticking to its decision to get the allegations checked by a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) - an empowered parliamentary panel that is headed by BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi. But the PAC doesn't have the power to question the prime minister while a JPC can.
Mukherjee, a known trouble-shooter for the government, has confessed he was unable to find a solution. “I do not know how to resolve this impasse," Mukherjee said. The logjam has put a question mark on the passage of major government bills, including one that seeks more money for subsidies and federal schemes and has already been tabled in the Lok Sabha.
The bill seeks sanction to spend Rs.19,812 crore for payments towards subsidy on fertilisers and food, rural roads construction and other expenditure.
The government can technically approve the demand without a debate and through voice vote, but it fears that it will receive flak from the opposition.
The government has offered a probe into the 2G scam by an empowered Public Accounts Committee, assisted by investigative agencies, but the opposition has shot down the proposal.