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'If Parliament doesn't clean up scams, who will?'

Last updated on: February 7, 2011 16:35 IST

'Even UPA's allies have demanded JPC probe'

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India needs strong action against corruption, Janata Dal - United president Sharad Yadav, the convener of the National Democratic Alliance, tells Gyan Varma

The National Democratic Alliance is adamant on its demand for a joint parliamentary committee  probe into three different corruption cases that are hitting the headlines. What do you expect in the budget session? Will the government agree to your demand?

The size of these scams -- 2G spectrum allocation, Commonwealth Games and Adarsh Housing Society -- is huge. The reason we are demanding a JPC probe is because of the growing problem of corruption. I am hopeful that Parliament will come together on this issue. A JPC is like a mini-Parliament and we believe there is no need for a discussion on this, something the Union government has been insisting on.

The time has come to take action and not debate the issue in the House. I think a JPC probe will be effective because no political party has a massive majority in the House.

A JPC works on its own. The terms of reference should be such that they allow for a creation of an institution to fight corruption. Just like the Election Commission and the judiciary, we need an institution to fight corruption.

The Central Bureau of Investigation probe is on but the agency is facing several issues. The CBI can be politically influenced and has been used by all governments. Its credibility is not good because of political influence.

In my opinion, the government should agree to a JPC probe as it is not directed against it. When Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee called an all-party meeting, TR Baalu said the government would agree to the demand but only if investigation starts from 1998. I was the first one to say yes. All political parties said the same thing. The Congress has only 208 members in the Lok Sabha. The remaining want a JPC. Even the allies of the government, Mamata Banerjee, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam, have demanded a JPC probe.


Image: Sharad Yadav

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'Government will also benefit from this clean-up'

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Do you think Parliament will function if the government doesn't agree to the demand? What is the way out of this?

There is no tussle between the government and the Opposition. All the three scams are so big that if Parliament doesn't do the clean-up, who will do it? The government will also benefit from this clean-up as it will strengthen the country's democratic institutions. When we see that the credibility of the government is falling because of corruption, how can we sit quietly? The JPC probe will only improve the credibility of the government.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has called an all-party meeting on February 8. What do you expect from it? This is not the first time that an all-party meeting has been called.

I think the government will be able to resolve the issue. There are many issues that need to be taken up in Parliament during the Budget session. Today we have a situation where the judiciary is functioning, the media is functioning but Parliament is closed since the winter session. Parliament is the most powerful institution in our country and it is the responsibility of the government to make it function effectively.


Image: Parliament

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'Back-channel dialogue is always on'

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Has there been any back-channel dialogue between the government and National Democratic Alliance leaders to end the stalemate in Parliament?

The back-channel dialogue is always on. There can't be a situation where the back-channel dialogue doesn't happen. It never stops. But it is not fair on my part to reveal the details of our discussions.

You have been meeting (Communist Party of India - Marxist) Prakash Karat, (Indian National Lok Dal)Om Prakash Chautala and (Telugu Desam Party leader) Chandrababu Naidu. Do you think they will stand with you in Parliament?

We are in touch will all political parties and they are all with us on the issue of corruption and JPC. How can they not be with us when there have been such huge corruption cases in the country?


Image: Prakash Karat and Chandrababu Naidu

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'Raja was arrested because of pressure'

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Now that the former telecom minister A Raja has been arrested, do you believe the demand for a JPC probe will lose steam, because now action is being taken?

Raja was arrested because of pressure from political parties, media and judiciary. This has happened only because Parliament could not function during the winter session. The pressure will continue on the government, not only to arrest those involved in corruption, but also to effectively investigate the case and allow it to reach its logical conclusion. I think the chief justice is doing a good job on the issue.

Would you now want similar action against (Commonwealth Games Organising Committee chairman) Suresh Kalmadi and (former Maharashtra Chief Minister) Ashok Chavan?

Why just Suresh Kalmadi and Ashok Chavan? The process should be the same for anybody who is involved in corruption. It is the need of the hour. The Commonwealth Games scam would not be less than Rs 1,00,000 crore. A lot of money used for beautification, planting of trees and grass was wasted. These things are not seen in the city anymore.


Image: Suresh Kalmadi and Ashok Chavan

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Who is stopping the PM from speaking before parliamentarians?

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The NDA has blamed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the 2G spectrum allocation and Commonwealth Games cases. What reply do you expect from him?

It is precisely why we want a JPC. The parliamentarians will investigate all the charges in detail and bring out the truth. The prime minister is the biggest institution in this country and he should make his stand clear in Parliament. Who is stopping him from speaking before parliamentarians? He can speak whenever he wants to.

Do you believe that the PM was deliberately silent on the spectrum issue or it was the pressure of coalition politics that didn't allow him to act?

I will not comment on this.

The BJP recently appointed Jaswant Singh to speak to political parties and join hands with the NDA. Both Sushma Swaraj and you are also doing it. Why does the NDA need so many political leaders to do the same job?

It's the decision of the party to appoint him and not of the NDA. Jaswant Singh will only liaison for his party and not for the NDA.


Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Jaswant Singh

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