It wasn’t so long ago that the Congress leadership was all for the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) looking into the 2G spectrum issue. “The PAC is a joint parliamentary committee presided over by a senior member of the Opposition. I am willing to appear before it.” These were the words of no less a personage than Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with finance minister Pranab Mukherjee offering a multi-disciplinary investigative agency to assist the PAC headed by Opposition leader Murli Manohar Joshi. But the vehemence with which the UPA members of the PAC have rejected the report is puzzling and worrying. Allegations that the report was outsourced and that the PAC had no right to criticise the PM go against the very grain of Mr Singh’s desire to resolve this issue.
The issue has moved from 2G to whether or not the report stands on the technicality of Mr Joshi having walked and a substitute allowing the report to be rejected by 11 of the 21 members. Significantly, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, arch rivals in UP, seem to have found common cause in scuttling the report along with the UPA. This is a most unfortunate development at a time when the corruption issue is exercising the country as never before. It would seem from this spectacle that our political establishment is unable to get away from narrow partisan concerns. It now appears that Mr Joshi will present the draft report to the Speaker who will take the final call. If the members who have rejected the report feel that their views weren’t accommodated in it, they could surely have put this forward in a democratic manner. The atmosphere in the country today on the issue of corruption is such that this move will raise further doubts instead of making things more transparent. Allegations that the draft report was leaked may be valid but that alone is not reason enough to reject it in its entirety.
So after a short period in which both the Opposition and the ruling coalition seemed to be on the same side on the corruption issue, battle-lines have been drawn once again. This will only serve to further devalue our democratic institutions and lower the image of our elected representatives in the eyes of the people. If this is the fate of the draft PAC report, people will lose faith that the Joint Parliamentary Committee report will fare any better. The UPA government had just begun to recover lost ground with its decisive action against some of those under suspicion in the 2G scam, albeit a little too late. This signal that it means business on the issue of corruption will be meaningless in the face of these obstructionist tactics on a report from a committee that it endorsed earlier. So, in many ways we are back to the drawing board once again.