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Eyes on the job at hand

While the Opposition has won a victory, all parties have a responsibility to the high democratic office they occupy to see that it is not merely a case of getting the better of one another.

india Updated: Feb 23, 2011 21:51 IST

Like reluctant adversaries forced to shake hands by a referee, the political class has begun the move towards the constitution of the contentious Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) into the 2G telecom scam. But much muttering and grumbling under their breath is evident. After paralysing Parliament for over a session on this issue, it is not encouraging that the first thing that we hear about is wrangling on the size of the JPC and on the reluctant manner in which the government conceded ground.

While the Opposition has won a victory, all parties have a responsibility to the high democratic office they occupy to see that it is not merely a case of getting the better of one another. The Congress has already taken the high moral ground that it conceded the JPC so as to ensure that the crucial budget session of Parliament proceeds smoothly. The 2G scam has divided the polity as never before and the trust deficit between the government and the Congress also extends to a trust deficit between the political establishment and the people who are paying for the upkeep of Parliament.

A JPC in itself is no solution to the malaise of corruption that has come to symbolise large swathes of public life today. After such a bitter battle for it, the JPC should be concluded swiftly and smoothly. The worry is that it could go the way of past JPCs that did nothing to ensure that justice was done. In 1987, the Bofors JPC report was rejected by the Opposition. The 1992 Harshad Mehta scam JPC findings were neither accepted in full nor implemented. The 2001 JPC into the Ketan Parekh share market scam recommended sweeping changes in market regulations, though many were subsequently diluted. This does not inspire great confidence in the efficacy of a JPC unless a serious effort is made to see that its findings will make up for the time lost in conducting parliamentary proceedings.

It serves no purpose debating the semantics of the prime minister's pronouncement on the JPC. Much more would be served if the public could be informed of its mandate and the clear guidelines it will follow. The JPC should be inclusive but it cannot be considered a jamboree which could degenerate into unseemly spats, not an impossibility given the volatile political atmosphere at present. Perhaps the last word should go to the Opposition which brought this about. Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj has put it in perspective when she says that this should not be seen as a victory or defeat, rather as a victory of democracy.