New Delhi: The reworked report of Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Murli Manohar Joshi, which questions the prime minister’s role in the 2G spectrum allocation, has sparked a row, with the Congress dismissing the report as ”motivated” and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) asserting that there is ”nothing wrong” with it.
The report is set to create more trouble for the government already battling corruption charges, in the face of which Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia asserted that the cabinet “can’t be micro-managed” by the prime minister.
Joshi, a senior BJP leader, circulated his reworked report among PAC members Saturday. The report questions the role of Manmohan Singh and the then finance minister P. Chidambaram in the allocation of 2G spectrum, which allegedly resulted in the loss of crores of rupees to the national exchequer.
The report is set to provide more ammunition to a combative opposition determined to pin down the government over a slew of corruption charges, including irregularities in the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
The Congress and UPA members of the PAC Sunday reacted sharply to Joshi’s reworked report and indicated their intention to reject it. They demanded the removal of Joshi from the post of the PAC chairman and accused him of being “interested in politics”.
The Congress said the re-circulation of the controversial PAC report amounted to making the committee “partisan and motivated”. “Clearly the chairman and the BJP are bent upon making the committee political, partisan and motivated. The PAC chairman or the PAC are not oxygen generating medical units to breathe life into a constitutionally dead PAC report,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said.
“Secondly, it has to be decided whether it is more appropriate for a larger or more specific committee like the JPC set up for this purpose to look into the matter or the PAC, which is general, and is riven with a vote of no-confidence in its chairman and holds no live reference on the 2G issue as of now,” he said.
Congress MP and PAC member Sanjay Nirupam rubbished the reworked report, saying it “deserves to be thrown into the dustbin”. Nirupam asked why the opinion of constitutional experts was not included in the report.The BJP, however, backed Joshi’s move to re-circulate the report.
“The report was sent to the speaker and the speaker said the report has not been adopted. So naturally, if the report has not been adopted by a committee, then it has to be circulated to be adopted. So if it has been circulated, there is nothing wrong in it,” said senior party leader S.S. Ahluwalia.
In a forwarding letter to PAC members Saturday, Joshi stirred a fresh row by saying he was sending them the draft report again after consulting constitutional experts and “past precedents”. Joshi was reappointed chairman of the PAC in May after the term of the previous PAC ended April 30.
On June 28, Joshi tried to place the report before the new PAC, but he did not succeed due to fierce opposition from UPA members. Speaker Meira Kumar returned the report on grounds it was not supported by the entire PAC.
Last time around, Joshi’s report on the 2G scam was rejected by the UPA members in the PAC. This time, the change in the composition of the panel will make it difficult for them to do so.
In the committee, nine members support the report, but nine are against it. Three members of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) are neither supporting nor opposing it and one seat is vacant. The reworked report is said to comprise 575 pages, with 276 pages of documents the PAC had received from government on 2G spectrum allocation.
Meanwhile, in an interview to a news channel, Montek Singh Ahluwalia defended Manmohan Singh on the 2G issue. “The prime minister is not micro-managing every decision. So while I think 2G clearly became a problem, I don’t think it became a problem because it was mishandled at the Prime Minister’s Office level,” Ahluwalia told Karan Thapar’s Devil’s Advocate programme on CNN-IBN.
Ahluwalia also contended that former communications minister A. Raja’s assertion that the prime minister had erred by not setting up a ministerial panel to oversee spectrum decisions was without basis.