Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sibal cut a sorry figure, JPC set up after war of words

The telecom minister, an articulate Mr Kapil Sibal, cut a sorry figure in Lok Sabha, first tendering an apology for his remarks against BJP leader Sushma Swaraj and then abruptly ending his speech mid-way after being virtually told to do so by the leader of the house and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee. This only shows, probably Dr Manmohan Singh has erred in his judgement by making Sibal the new Telecom minister.
BJD member Pinaki Mishra, acidly made the wisecrack saying, it would be better if Sibal quit the government and defended A Raja in a court of law.
Sibal left the treasury benches in Lok Sabha red faced with embarrassment when he reiterated his now celebrated claim that there was “no loss” in 2G spectrum allocation. He was intervening in the debate on the motion moved by Mr Mukherjee for appointing a JPC to probe the 2-G spectrum scam.
Amid repeated acrimonious scenes, Mr Sibal sought to justify his statement made earlier that contrary to the findings of CAG there was “no loss” in the 2G allocation. Mishra said, Sibal was in microscopic minority to believe in such a scenario. Opposition members including Mr Yashwant Sinha, Kirti Azad – both BJP, Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI), Basudeb Acharia (CPI-M), M Thambidurai (AIADMK) demanded that in such a scenario Mr Mukherjee should withdraw the motion which sought the House approval for appointment of the JPC to specifically probe the scam involving huge loss of revenue to the government.
“Please take back the resolution….,” taunted BJP member Mr Yashwant Sinha, leaving the ruling party members clearly embarrassed. "We dont want charity", some said even as Mr Sibal was seen justifying his remarks to a party colleague, a stern looking Mukherjee gestured to the loquacious lawyer to be done with his speech and resume his seat. With visible discomfiture Mr Sibal complied with the ‘message’ from his leader and sat down without properly winding up his speech.
Earlier at the very start of the speech, Sibal had to tender an apology after he said the Leader of the Opposition Ms Sushma Swaraj had a special skill to present truths as falsehood and vice versa. As several opposition members sprang to their feet in a howl of protests, he made a hasty retreat, saying, “I apologise. I did not intend to mean any offence”.

The Lok Sabha later adopted the motion to set up the much awaited
Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe into the alleged Rs 1.76
lakh crore 2 G spectrum scam after a heated debate angry exchange of words.

The committee will have 20 members from the Lok Sabha and 10 members
from Rajya Sabha. Moving the motion, Leader of the House Mr Pranab
Mukherjee in a spirited speech said the Committee will also examine
"irregularities and aberrations, if any" and the consequences thereof
in the implementation of government decisions and policy prescriptions
for the period between 1998 and 2009.

"It will make recommendations to ensure formulation of appropriate
procedures for implementation of laid down policy in the allocation
and pricing of telecom licences," he said adding that the JPC report
will be submitted by the end of monsoon session.
Making a veiled attack on the opposition parties for their insistence
on the demand, he said the “parliament cannot be mortgaged to concede
to a demand”. “Is this the way Parliament should function?”
He singled out BJP to pour his ire on for insisting on the
demand, especially after having first rejected a JPC on
similar corruption charge during Tehelka scam.

Referring to frequent disruptions of the House and complete wash out
of winter session of parliament, he cautioned that if "hatred and
disrespect for parliamentary institutions was generated, it would
lead to the rise of extra-constitutional authorities" as had happened
in a neighbouring country way back in 1958 when Martial Law was
imposed. “It’s a law of nature, there cannot be any vacuum; if executive fails other wings will take over. It's our constitutional responsibility to discharge our duties as parliamentarians," he said.

He said government’s refusal for a JPC earlier was not due to any
‘arrogance’ but rather it had thought that it would be able to carry
conviction to the opposition camp about the futility of such
exercise.
“On my part, I regret I could not convince the members and also I had
failed to understand the aspirations of the members,” he said.
Mr Mukherjee said though a JPC was not conceded, there was no lack of
interest in investigation 2G Spectrum. Besides the CBI even other
agencies like ED were probing the criminality of the case.
The 20 members on the Committee from Lok Sabha are: Kishore
Chandra S Deo, Paban Singh Ghatowar, Jai Prakash Agarwal, Deepender
Singh Hooda, P C Chacko, Manish Tewari, Nirmal Khatri, Adhir Ranjan
Chowdhury, all Congress, T R Baalu (DMK), Kalyan Banerjee (TMC),
Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha, Harin Pathak, Gopinath Munde, (all
BJP), Sharad Yadav (JD-U), Dara Singh Chauhan (BSP), Akhilesh Yadav
(SP), Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI), Arjun Charan Sethi (BJD)and M
Thambidurai (AIADMK). Mr Mukherjee requested
the Speaker to nominate a chairman.
Supporting the motion, the Leader of the opposition Ms Sushma Swaraj,
however, took strong exception to Mr Mukherjee’s reported statement
made in January in Siliguri that by insisting on a JPC and sabotaging
the functioning of Parliament the opposition parties were behaving
like Maoists. “Was our demand a violent demand or was it
undemocratic….,” she asked and said by accepting the demand earlier
the government would have only shown its “maturity and magnanimity”.
She said as union Health minister during NDA regime, she had readily
accepted the demand for a JPC on allegations of presence of pesticides
in cold drinks and had even offered the chairmanship to opposition
member Mr Sharad Pawar. She demanded the terms of reference should
also empower the JPC to recommend measures for reviving the sagging
image of democratic institutions in the country.
She said by conceding to the demand, the government could have saved
itself from the ignominy of getting strong flak from the Supreme Court
including the directive to submit an affidavit from the Prime
Minister. This has never happened in the past, she said.
Lalu Prasad Yadav,RJD, in a hilarious speech demanded that Radia tapes should be handed over to the JPC.
TDP member Nama Nageshwar Rao said the proposed JPC did not have
members from several political parties.

ends

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