The vote to adopt the controversial Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) report on the 2G scam is set to go down to the wire on Thursday with the Opposition needing to keep its flock together to have a chance of scuttling the document.
Representatives of the Opposition, which has 15 members on the 30-member committee, are set to meet at midday on Thursday, hours before the crucial JPC meeting begins at 3 pm, to take stock of their strength.
While the right (BJP) and left (Communist parties) of the political spectrum are united in their desire to get the report rejected, the decision of two parties will be crucial: Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi Party, and Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United).
The mercurial Mulayam is an ally of the ruling UPA but has conveyed to the Opposition camp that his party MP Shailendra Kumar will not sign the official draft. Balancing that is the reluctance of the Janata Dal (United), to indict Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Leaks from the report suggest that it absolves Singh and finance minister P Chidambaram from blame in the scandal over 2G telecom spectrum that rocked India three years ago.
If the Opposition can convince the SP to even abstain, it could win the day, as long as its flock — BJP, BJD, Left parties, DMK, AIADMK and Trinamool — stay together. It has focused its energies on the SP and has not even tried to reach its rival party, Mayawati's BSP. A senior Left leader has been entrusted the task of engaging the Trinamool.
"If we can retain our entire strength of 15 MPs, we will strongly press for the rejection of the report. Otherwise, the official draft will be adopted with dissent notes,” said a senior member of the opposition camp. Setting the tone for the confrontation, BJP leader Yashwant Sinha has written to the PM asking him to appear before the JPC adding that if he did not, his silence would “confirm the worst fears of the people of India” that he was “fully involved” in the scam.
Remarkably, the two Dravidian rival parties are on the same side. The DMK will see a rejection of the report as vindication for its ex-telecom minister A Raja, who was indicted in the scam. And Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa, the head of the AIADMK, wants to now nail the PM and finance minister, having had the satisfaction of seeing Raja go to jail. The Opposition camp does not rule out the strong possibility of disruptions in the meeting leading to no definite result, with the adoption of the report getting deferred.