Congress, opposition at daggers drawn over 2G JPC report (Intro Roundup)

New Delhi, April 25 (IANS) The Congress and the opposition were at daggers drawn Thursday, with the latter demanding the removal of P.C. Chacko as the head of the joint parliamentary committee (JPC) looking into 2G spectrum allocation and the former pressing for debarring three BJP members from voting on its report. Chacko said he wouldn’t budge.

Both sides approached Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar and gave signed letters on their demands.

The Congress was surprised when half of the 30 member JPC, including arch political rivals, approached Meira Kumar and gave signed letters saying they had no confidence in Chacko.

“Fifteen JPC members have given signed letters to the speaker saying they have no confidence in Chcko,” BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters.

“Chacko’s conduct as chairman has been impartial. He has failed in his duty to bring out the truth,” he said.

“I will continue as JPC chief,” Chacko asserted.

The opposition members are angry over the leaked draft report which has blamed former telecom minister A Raja for the alleged losses in the allocation of 2G spectrum but cleared Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P. Chidamabaram of any wrongdoing.

Congress spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury played down the sharp division in the JPC.

“We will cross the bridge when we come to it. Political alignments are part of the political turf,” she said.

But a few hours later, the Congress turned the tables when six party MPs urged the speaker to remove “three BJP members – Ravi Shankar Prasad, Yashwant Sinha and Jaswant Singh – from the JPC or debar them from voting as they were either telecom ministers or were part of a group of ministers on the issue during the NDA rule (1998-2004)”.

“There would be a conflict of interest if the report is finalized in their presence,” a Congress MP told IANS.

All eyes are now on the speaker for her decision.

The Congress, however, got some respite as the JPC meeting to finalise its report was postponed due to the sudden passing away of Trinmool Congress MP Ambica Banerjee.

Congress sources rubbished the opposition’s charge that the government was trying to buy time.

“The JPC meet was postponed due to mourning over the Trinamool MPs death,” a minister said.

Both the BJP and the Left stalled the Rajya Sabha over the 2G, issue demanding the prime minister’s resignation.

BJP member Yashwant Sinha had again written to the prime minister April 23, asking him to appear before the JPC and clear the air about his alleged involvement in the spectrum allocation.

Sinha had written a similar letter earlier, which Manmohan Singh had rejected, saying all the relevant documents had been provided to the JPC.

In the past, BJP members boycotted the panel, demanding that both the prime minister and Chidambaram be called.

In November-December 2011, an entire winter session of parliament was washed out as the BJP did not allow either house to run till a JPC probe was set up.

The issue came up after the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said a presumptive loss of Rs.1.76 lakh crore had been lost in the allocation of 2G spectrum licences during the UPA-I government 2004-2009.

The draft report of JPC negates the findings of the official auditor, saying Raja had changed the cut-off date for the allocation of spectrum without notice and this amounted to an irregularity.

The report further said it was a policy decision to give licences on first-come-first-served basis, and not to go for auction.

It noted that the move was backed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

It also said Chidambaram had no role in decision-making.

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