2G: After Walking Out BJP Threatens to Quit JPC Panel
The divide within the JPC on 2G spectrum scam deepened today with BJP members walking out of its meeting and threatening to quit, alleging bias by its Chairman P C Chacko who charged the Opposition party with trying to "kill" the panel for political interests.
The Joint Parliamentary Committee, which met after nearly a month, witnessed a virtual repeat of August 22 meeting when BJP members stormed out following a clash with Congress members.
As soon as the meeting started, BJP members wanted resumption of discussion on finalisation of list of witnesses, a matter that had provoked a clash last time.
However, Chacko rejected it, saying the Committee was slated to hear presentation by RBI Governor D Subbarao, who was the Finance Secretary when 2G Spectrum was allotted in 2008, and could not discuss anything else.
Four of the six BJP members present in the meeting, including Yashwant Sinha, were upset at this and walked out.
BJP wanted inclusion of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P Chidamaram in the final list of witnesses.
After staging walkout, BJP accused Chacko of being 'biased' and threatened to quit the panel, saying a decision in this regard will be taken soon.
Sinha said his party has lost faith in the panel and did not expect it to uncover the truth.
Chacko hit back charging BJP with trying to "throttle and kill" the Committee for its political interests.
Chacko said the BJP stood "isolated" on the issue as members from other parties participated in the deliberations despite their second walkout on the same matter.
"The committee would continue with its business," he said when asked whether BJP's absence would affect JPC's functioning.
Replying to a volley of questions on whether JPC has decided against calling the Prime Minister and Chidambaram, Chacko said the decision will be taken by a "majority view". "Till recently, we had gone by consensus. But when it eludes us, we will take a decision based on majority. No decision has been taken so far," he said.
On September 15, Sinha had written to Chacko demanding to settle the issue of witnesses before proceeding further.
Chacko wrote back saying the committee has spent two sittings on the issue and he was authorised by members to take a final call on the issue. He circulated Sinha's letter and his response to all the members of the Committee.
Chacko used the letters to defend his decision against allowing discussion on list of witnesses.
"They are playing politics... People who forced the government to set up the JPC are now trying to throttle it, kill it," he said.
But BJP said the manner in which Chacko is functioning makes it clear that the JPC is now "not an instrument for uncovering the truth".
Continuing his attack on Chacko, Sinha accused him of being "biased" and behaving as spokesperson of the Congress.
"I can't think of any Committee where a Chairman would behave like this and gag a member in a highly dictatorial manner. This is reminiscent of the Emergency... He did not behave as an impartial chairman. He truly behaved like a spokesperson of the Congress party," Sinha said.
The BJP leader recalled the clash between BJP and Congress members in the PAC meeting a couple of years ago when the draft report on 2G was being finalised.
"In order to conceal the truth, they abused the Chairman of the PAC... In this particular case, they are misusing the position of Chairman of JPC by behaving in this dictatorial fashion and putting a purdah on the truth," he alleged.
Meanwhile, in his deposition, Subbarao told the panel that he was in disagreement with the March 25, 2011 note of the Finance Ministry to the Prime Minister which suggested that Chidambaram could have insisted on auctioning the 2G spectrum instead of it being allowed to be allocated on first-come first-served basis.
Chidambaram said in a meeting with then Telecom Minister A Raja on January 30, 2008 that "he was for now not seeking to revisit the current regimes for entry fee or revenue share" of spectrum, the note said.
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