The government is keeping its options open on instituting a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the IPL controversy as demanded by the opposition. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will decide after consulting the allies.
The Opposition — both the BJP and the Left — made a strong pitch for a JPC in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha on Friday amid reports of the role of NCP ministers Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel in the controversy.
The issue later figured at the Congress’s Core Group attended by Prime Minister Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Union ministers Pranab Mukherjee, P. Chidambaram and A.K. Antony and Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel.
Mukherjee briefed the meeting on the ongoing IPL probe as well as the Opposition’s demand for a JPC.
“It is now for the government to decide whether or not to have a JPC,’’ said a source.
If the government’s decides to go for a JPC, it would be the fifth. Until two days ago, Congress leaders were privately ruling out the possibility of a JPC. “Some government rule has to be broken for a JPC to be set up,” a minister had said. “If hard facts surface about betting and money laundering, the move to set up a JPC could gain momentum.”
On Friday, the government adopted a more nuanced approach after a combined Opposition stalled proceedings in both Houses of Parliament.
“A decision in the matter has to be taken with due diligence and consideration, and I will convey your sentiments to the Prime Minister. Let us wait for some time,” Mukherjee told the Lok Sabha on Friday.
Is the government trying to buy time and ensure that Parliament gets back on track next week for the vote on the budget by keeping the JPC option open? The pros and cons of setting up a JPC would include addressing a host of issues.
The panel would include NCP members creating a situation where they would be looking into the role of their leaders in the controversy.
Further, will the NCP ministers have to resign pending the JPC probe?
And would the setting up of a JPC not amount to admitting that there was something amiss in the NCP leaders’ role in the IPL controversy when privately Congress leaders say that there is no evidence so far. Given this, will Pawar agree to a JPC?
There are questions also on what will happen to the ongoing investigations.
The big question then is how a JPC will help? “At present the heat is on the Congress’s ally, the NCP, and therefore also on the government. A JPC will help the government take the heat off.
Also, if a JPC probe is on, the government does not have to react. On its part, the Opposition can claim having scored a political point that the panel was set up at its behest.
The disadvantage for it will be that it won’t be able to raise the issue in Parliament,’’ said a government official.
Earlier, Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj told the Lok Sabha that the IPL controversy was getting “more serious by the day” and a JPC probe should be ordered “to save the dignity of the House and to bring to light the whole issue”.
JD-U’s Sharad Yadav alleged that “illegal money” from both Mauritius and Swiss banks had been invested in IPL while CPM’s Basudeb Acharia said that the IPL matter was “much bigger” than the 1992 securities scam and CPI’s Gurudas Dasgupta termed it the “most serious fraud” since Independence.
In the Rajya Sabha BJP’s S S Ahluwalia raised the issue. The Lok Sabha witnessed two adjournments on Friday, while the Upper House was adjourned for the day amidst slogan shouting by Opposition members.
“Daal me kala zaroor hai, aur kitne Tharoor hain” (there is something fishy, how many more Tharoors are there), was one such slogan.