M A I N   N E W S

Govt blinks on JPC as Oppn holds its ground
No price high enough to make the House run: Pranab
Aditi Tandon/TNS

New Delhi, February 8
After two months of rigid posturing on the Opposition’s persistent demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the 2G Spectrum scam, the government finally softened its stand today, indicating a willingness to concede to the same.

The change of stance was driven by the UPA’s and the Opposition’s shared sense that the House should be brought back on rails for the budget session which is commencing on February 21. The Budget has to be passed and important legislations pushed. For both these tasks, the government needs the Opposition’s support and can ill-afford to antagonise it further, especially after the entire winter session was lost to this issue. That the government is ready to budge became evident from the body language of UPA’s chief troubleshooter and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who was the host for today’s all-party lunch meeting held to break the Parliament deadlock.

Unlike on past occasions when Pranab would emerge from such meetings “wearing ice on his face” and dismissing the JPC demand with a firm “no question” remark, he today exuded warmth and said, “We had a good, fruitful meeting.” Inside the meeting, his concluding remarks were even more telling: “No price is high enough to make the Parliament function.” The only question that remains to be sorted out now (for which another pre-session meeting would be held) is - how the JPC will be formally formed. While the BJP wants the government to immediately announce the constitution of the committee by moving a resolution on the floor of the House and debate it later if it wants, the government prefers a debate first to put its position on record. The Left is ready to debate the issue provided the government first promises that at the end of discussions it would constitute a JPC.

“We have said that the government must first assure the House that it will constitute a JPC. We don’t mind debating for debate’s sake,” Leader of CPM in the Lok Sabha Basudeb Acharia said.

BJP’s Sushma Swaraj, meanwhile, said that everyone today in the meeting felt that the House should run. “And if the House has to run - for which the Opposition’s precondition is a JPC - the government I feel will constitute one. We will have one more meeting to discuss the issue,” she said. Her sense was later reflected in this remark by MoS Parliamentary Affairs Ashwani Kumar: “The Parliament will function.”

Also present at the meeting was AICC general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad who worked behind the scenes to strike a truce between the warring parties.

Meanwhile, BJD’s Arjun Charan Sethi said the government and the Opposition had arrived at an agreement, informally. “Its formal contours will be spelt out later. There’s a proposal that a substantive motion asking for a JPC will be moved and the government will concede it after a discussion in the House,” he told the Tribune. Inside the meeting, BJP veteran LK Advani is reported to have said that the issue should not be viewed as the Opposition’s victory and the government’s loss. “The recent occurrences have brought down the credibility of the political class and raised questions on their ability to govern. We should send out a message that we take these issues seriously,” he reasoned.





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