There was a genuine question mark over the efficacy of the probe being conducted by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament into the 2G spectrum allocation scam. And the matter of discontent, articulated quite forcefully and successfully by the Opposition, was the perception that by refusing to install a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to deal with the contentious issue, the Congress-led government was shielding the prime minister from any inquiry. On Monday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh not only took the wind out of the Opposition's sails by offering to appear before the PAC for questioning, but he also brought the focus back to getting to the bottom of the truth about the 2G scandal rather than using the 'PAC vs JPC' debate as a politicised punching bag that would, by proxy, determine whether the government or the Opposition blinked first. Till now, the Congress had unhelpfully defended the government's decision not to conduct a JPC by invoking the 'sanctity' of the prime minister. This line of action had actually provided grist to the Opposition's mill. So Mr Singh's acknowledgement that, as prime among the government's body of ministers, he bears responsibility for the alleged wrongdoings of any of his colleagues and, therefore, his being answerable to any such inquiry is indeed welcome.
Mr Singh has also shown commendable reason by calmly explaining why the need for a JPC is redundant, at least, at this stage. As he pointed out on Monday, the PAC is examining the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General indicting former Union telecom minister A Raja for his role in the 2G scam and the PAC's report would be placed before Parliament and will be up for debate. He also added that the “government is obliged to take action on the recommendations of the PAC". This is the kind of clarity that was required and that the Opposition should be pleased to get, coming from the prime minister himself. The bone of contention, in any case, was always about getting Mr Singh to answer questions regarding the actions of his former colleague, Mr Raja — for instance, why, despite his boss's interventions and concerns, Mr Raja chose to go ahead with 2G spectrum allocations in the manner that he did. Mr Singh will now be willing to face such queries from a statutory body.
It is one thing for the Opposition to push the government, and push the government hard, to get to the truth regarding a ministerial act of corruption of the magnitude of the 2G scam. It's quite another to become fixated with something that's purely a war of one-upmanship, even as the core reason for a demand for a JPC — that the prime minister is answerable to questions — has been granted. Mr Singh has shown maturity, and more than a little bit of courage, by solving what seemed like an irresistible force meeting an immovable object. Now it's for the Opposition to show some practical sense and let the PAC get some necessary answers out of the PM.