Cornered by the Opposition, which continued to paralyse Parliament on Monday, the government seems to be left with only two options: agreeing to the Opposition demand for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the telecom and other recent scandals or adjourning the winter session of Parliament right away.
With Parliamentary Affairs Minister P K Bansal ruling out sine die adjournment, the government seems to be willy nilly being pushed to consider setting up the very JPC it had until now rejected outright.
Even as both Houses were adjourned for the seventh consecutive day, Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee’s all party meeting on Monday — the second in a week — failed to break the deadlock with the Opposition.
Mukherjee’s proposal of empowering the public accounts committee (PAC) with a multi-disciplinary investigation agency probing the issue, was shot down. Mukherjee promised to revert to the opposition after talking to PM Manmohan Singh.
Accordingly he later briefed the PM and other senior Congress leaders.
But before deciding on its next move, the government will watch carefully the developments in the Supreme Court on Tuesday where a PIL on the spectrum scam is also being heard, hoping for a directive that will give it some respite. Also if Karnataka CM BS Yeddyurappa survives despite the scam taint, the Congress can hit back at the opposition for having double standards. Either way, Parliament is unlikely to function on Tuesday.
But Mukherjee’s discomfiture with the idea of setting up a JPC was evident at the meeting, said sources. The government was not convinced about a JPC probe, Mukherjee said, and “if at all it agrees, it would only give in to the opposition demand."
"Why don’t you?” asked Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj. She noted that all four JPCs of the past - including the one set up by NDA government, had been reluctantly conceded, after confrontations in Parliament. The government will also have to bear in mind that allies like the Trinamool Congress are not averse to a JPC probe.
The Opposition believes that the relevance of a JPC probe has increased in the wake of audio tapes of conversations between a corporate lobbyist and mediapersons, including on cabinet formation. Swaraj reportedly told the meeting that the tapes showed that all four pillars of democracy have become hollow and this needed to be discussed and probed. “As the tapes have exposed, corporate lobbyists decide on ministers and portfolios. Then they decide what policy should be and how to go about it," said her Rajya Sabha counterpart Arun Jaitley.
CPI’s Gurudas Dasgupta even warned against trying to adjourn Parliament sine die, saying the opposition would then continue its protest in the budget session in 2011.