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Cong grapples with nitty-gritty of JPC
New Delhi, Feb 15 (Agencies):
Published on 15 Feb. 2011 11:49 PM IST
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Despite divisions in the Congress, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is now working out the terms under which it should accept the Opposition's demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the 2G spectrum scam.
According to the Hindu, with just a week left for the all-important budget session to begin, the Congress Core Group met here on Monday morning, sources said, to discuss the “nitty-gritty” of setting up the JPC — and how to play the issue.
The Congress made it clear that there could be no JPC, unless it was preceded by a discussion on the floor of the House, so that the government could get an opportunity to place its case before the people.
“The demand for a JPC,” party spokesperson Manish Tewari said, “shouldn't be a subterfuge to run away from a debate on the floor of the House.”
The Opposition, especially the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has apparently been arguing against a debate, saying the issue has been discussed in previous sessions. The Congress counter is that it was not discussed in the context of the demand for a JPC. Besides, it wants the role of the BJP-headed National Democratic Alliance in the 2G spectrum scam (1998-2004) discussed.
On February 8, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee met leaders of the Opposition parties in an effort to break the parliamentary deadlock over the Opposition's demand that had washed out the winter session. At that meeting, Mr. Mukherjee said no price was too high to pay for the smooth functioning of Parliament, a statement interpreted as the government's willingness to accede to the demand.
The Congress' public position was articulated by Mr. Tewari on Monday: “An appropriate modus vivendi will be worked out jointly by the government and the Opposition.” Indeed, the government's senior political mangers are in touch with Opposition leaders.
Interestingly, Union Communications Minister Kapil Sibal, who has been fielding questions on the scam, cancelled his visit to the annual GSM Mobile World Congress in Barcelona (February14-17) at the last moment, apparently to be on hand to help work on the government's strategy.
But even as the government moves towards a denouement, there are many in the Congress who are worried that even if the government accepts the JPC demand, the Opposition may be tempted to push it further, perhaps disrupting Parliament on the S-band issue.
“The Opposition has tasted blood,” a Congress leader said, pointing out “we have already dropped [the former Maharashtra Chief Minister] Ashok Chavan and Suresh Kalmadi, and had [the former Telecom Minister] A. Raja arrested. The Opposition's next target will be the Prime Minister, which is already visible.”
Many in the party now feel that its managers have failed it. For instance, on the 2G spectrum scam, a leader asked, “What was the need to defend Raja? We should have simply said he was an ally and difficult to handle. By defending Raja, we have made the Prime Minister vulnerable to attack.”

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