'PM's PAC offer a master act of deception'
The entire winter session of Parliament was stalled because of the Opposition's demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee to look into the 2G spectrum allocation scam.
The United Progressive Alliance government has steadfastly refused to accept the demand and has adopted different routes to investigate the scam and defuse the issue. The government's strategy obviously is to brazen out the allegations of corruption levelled against it.
The issue has assumed serious proportions as the Opposition parties are not ready to blink. As a result, nobody in New Delhi is sure how the government will pass the Union Budget in 2011.
Even though the government is far from being unstable, the UPA is clearly unsettled because it is fighting to retain its credibility. The Congress is trying to break the Opposition's unity and is desperate to show some progress in the investigations into the huge scams.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offered this week to appear before Parliament's Public Accounts Committee for which there is no precedent as he himself noted.
Arun Jaitley, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, explains to Rediff.com's Sheela Bhatt the real reasons behind the Bharatiya Janata Party's stubborn demand for the JPC. The first of a two-part interview:
Please click NEXT to read further..
Image: PAC only makes para-wise comments on what the CAG has said, notes senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley
'PM very well knows the PAC has limited jurisdiction'
(Congress General Secretary) Digvijay Singh called the PM's offer 'a masterstroke'. I think it is an act of master deception. He wants to appear, knowing fully well, before the PAC because it has limited jurisdiction.
There is the Comptroller and Auditor General of India. He is the government's auditor. He comments on accounts and audits. He, obviously, comments on issues with which the CAG is concerned. The PAC's jurisdiction comes out of the CAG reports. The PAC only makes para-wise comments on what the CAG has said.
It is a reviewing committee on what the auditors of the government have said.
Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
Photographs: Rediff archives
'Why didn't the PM stop Raja?'
What was the role of corporates and lobbyists in allocation of that portfolio? What was their role in formulations of policy?
Why was the policy implemented in a skewed manner? How much is the loss to the public exchequer? What was the relation between all these parties who have been paid?
What are the exact allegations of corruption?
As late as three months ago, when the PM addressed a press conference at Vigyan Bhavan, he kept supporting (then telecom minister) A Raja, saying that he (Raja) has followed the past practice, which is factually an invalid statement.
Why did the prime minister not stop Raja from implementing these issues at the time when Raja was implementing these proposals?
Why did the PM gloss over the allegations made against Raja in the last two years?
The first debate in the Rajya Sabha was held on July 23, 2009. I spoke for almost two hours on the subject. The 2G debate was on for the next three days.
Was the government unaware of all these things? For three years you did nothing. But for the fact that the CAG gave a report and Parliament was stalled, this issue would not have occupied centre-stage.
Also, look at the kind of references in the Niira Radia tapes on how the judicial orders are made. Look at the role of the media and the manner in which the media is acting as power-brokers in government formation.
How statements are issued and charges are being made. How bureaucrats and ex-bureaucrats are involved with lobbyists.
The role of corporate and lobbyists in the government are such issues that the PAC will not be looking into it.
These are not auditing and accounting issues which would come into the PAC domain. The prime minister fully knows that these are not PAC issues.
These issues are not merely an act of criminality that the Central Bureau of Investigation can probe. They are much larger. These issues and questions are connected with India's democratic institutions.
Only the JPC is a forum that can probe them. And, yes, if the prime minister is like Caesar's wife then he should not try and choose a forum of his own inquiry. Caesar's wife didn't do it.
If the prime minister doesn't want to live under suspicion, he should be willing to come up before any committee rather than just crib on technicalities.
For the Congress party, all that I have to say is that it is not in your interest to keep the prime minister under suspicion.
The Indian prime minister must be above suspicion. Nobody is saying that he has purposefully committed impropriety by taking some illegal gratification.
That is not at all our allegation. Those who chose to ignore corruption taking place under their nose when their Constitutional obligation is to check it, are also guilty.
That is the culpability of our prime minister. He has to come out of that suspicion. Even when Caesar's wife was cleared of suspicion, the fact that there had been a suspicion, Caesar thought that the ruler's wife must be above suspicion and he divorced her.
Therefore, the Congress party's own interest is to bring their prime minister out of suspicion.
Image: Former telecom minister Andimuthu Raja
Photographs: Rediff archives
'Even if there is a JPC, the PAC would go on'
The PAC is not debarred from investigating it. The PAC would look into the CAG report and nothing else. Even if there is a JPC, the PAC would go on.
There is nothing wrong in the PAC examining this issue. The PAC's jurisdiction is limited and only confined to the CAG report and nothing beyond it.
Please read Part 2 of the Arun Jaitley interview: 'The PM is guilty of a conspiracy of silence'
Image: Senior BJP leader and PAC Chairman Murli Manohar Joshi