Bharatiya Janata Party members on Thursday ended their nearly three-month boycott of the Joint Parliamentary Committee but stuck to their demand of calling Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as a witness to examine his role in the 2G spectrum allocation, a demand rejected by panel chief P C Chacko.
However, a decision on their demand to call Finance Minister P Chidambaram as a witness will be taken at a later stage. Their demand is also supported by the Communist Party of India-Marxist which has said that it is not too keen in calling the prime minister.
The 'special meeting' will also decide on calling other former finance ministers Yashwant Sinha and Jaswant Singh as witnesses - both members of the JPC, sources said.
The meeting is likely to held in December after the committee ends questioning the present batch of witnesses, which include Attorney General G E Vahanvati and some telecom operators.
Citing lack of precedent, Chacko has 'completely ruled out' calling the prime minister as a witness. "It is out of question to call the Prime Minister before the JPC as witness as there is no precedent of calling PMs before JPCs," he had said on Wednesday.
CPM's Sitaram Yechury has demanded calling the finance minister to understand why the finance ministry, which had all along insisted to selling 2G spectrum based on market forces, decided to support the department of telecommunication move to allocate radiowaves on first-come-first-served basis.
As soon as Thursday's proceedings began, BJP members led by Sinha and Ravi Shankar Prasad reiterated their demand to call the prime minister and the finance minister against the backdrop of the deposition by former Cabinet secretary K M Chandrasekhar, sources privy to the deliberations said.
Chandrasekhar had told the JPC that he had written to the prime minister suggesting an increase in the license fee for 2G spectrum so that the government could earn an additional Rs 35,000 crore.
A Congress member said that Sinha and Prasad told Chacko that they would like put some questions to the prime minister. This was seen as an indication that they would like to send a questionnaire to the PM instead of insisting on calling him before the panel.
A Left party leader also said the decision of the BJP to end the boycott could mean that they have decided to climb down on its demand to call the PM. Chacko has all along maintained that the committee has sufficient documents to ascertain the views of the prime Minister and there was no need to call him or even send a questionnaire.
It is learnt that some members such as Dravida Munetra Kazhagam 's T Siva also demanded that former Telecom Minister A Raja be called as a witness. There were some heated exchanges when a Congress member demanded calling former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as a witness.
Prasad said that the BJP was open to calling Vajpayee provided the prime minister is also called before the JPC. BJP members have been boycotting the JPC proceedings for nearly three months. Even before the boycott, they had stormed out of two JPC proceedings accusing its Chairman of behaving in an autocratic manner and charging Congress members with using foul language when they had pressed for summoning the prime minister and the finance minister as witnesses.
They had stayed away from the subsequent two proceedings of the committee. Some members of the committee questioned Chacko's decision to issue a denial to a newspaper report to Chandrasekar's appearance before it.
Chacko is learnt to termed it as a case of 'misreporting' and said the issue would not be pursued further. In Wednesday's meeting, representatives of a GSM operators' body were questioned on the impact of migration package on revenue and tele density.
A member claimed that their replies were 'inconsistent' and they would be called again in the next meeting to be held later this month during the Winter session of Parliament.
The JPC may seek a fresh extension, the fourth since it was constituted in March last year, Chacko said.