Fireworks expected at next JPC meet
The issue of summoning Chidambaram as a witness is back in the Committee's court with Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar declining to intervene at this stage which has forced JPC Chairman P C Chacko to take up the matter in a sharply divided panel.
While the BJP has been pressing for calling Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chidamaram as witnesses, the Left parties and BSP have favoured summoning the Finance Minister alone. Chacko has virtually rejected demands for calling the Prime Minister before the Committee.
The six BJP members of the JPC had stayed away from the last sitting of the panel on October 11 in protest against Chacko's refusal to finalise the list of witnesses and include the Prime Minister and Chidambaram in it. The Speaker has informed Chacko that the Committee has to first take a decision on the issue before approaching her in the matter and therefore, it was "premature to intervene at this stage".
Pressing the demand for calling the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister before the JPC on the 2G spectrum issue, BJP has been saying the panel is authorised to make modifications and variations to the rules of Parliamentary procedure to summon them.
Former Finance Minister and BJP member of the JPC Yashwant Sinha has written a letter to Chacko insisting that the body is of a "special nature" and hence a new precedent can be set. This is required as in the 2G case the Prime Minister has taken certain decisions which only he can explain.
"I think there can be no dispute that the nature of the scam is uncommon and the Committee is entitled to adopt an uncommon procedure, as indeed other JPCs have done in the past, with the approval of the Speaker," Sinha has said.
His contention is that Singh had offered to appear before the Parliament's Public Accounts Committee on the same issue and should not have any objection to deposing before the JPC. But Congress sees a ploy to "shield" corporates having a stakehold in 2G spectrum allocation in BJP's latest demand to summon the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister before the JPC probing the scam.
"The remit of the JPC extends from 1998 to 2009. There are three stakeholders in this process – the executive, the regulators and the corporates. The executive and regulators have been extensively examined. The corporates are untouched.
The demand to summon ministers may be a cat's paw to shield the corporates," Congress spokesman Manish Tewari, also a member of the panel, has said. Tewari in the last meeting of the Committee had demanded that the transcript of the Niira Radia tapes be made available to the JPC to understand the politician-corporate nexus.
Former Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar will appear before the panel tomorrow as a witness.