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Jaswant Singh quits as PAC chairman

December 16, 2009 15:56 IST
Last Updated: December 16, 2009 18:06 IST

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In a sudden development, senior Parliamentarian Jaswant Singh [Images] has resigned as chairman of the prestigious Public Accounts Committee, which he had refused to quit when he had a bitter parting of ways with the Bharatiya Janata Party [Images] four months ago.

His resignation raised questions on whether there was any possibility of a rapprochement with the BJP, but the 71-year-old leader ruled that out, saying he did not take the action under 'any pressure' or with 'some calculation'.

The former Union minister had met Lok Sabha Speaker [Images] Meira Kumar [Images] on Monday and submitted his resignation, which has been accepted with effect from December 31, to enable him to complete three reports. His tenure as PAC chairman ends in March next year.

"I wanted to establish a point, which has got established, which is the primacy of autonomy of functioning of parliamentary committees," said Singh, who was appointed as PAC chairman on August 6.

He was expelled from the party on August 19 for writing a book -- 'Jinnah -- India [Images], Partition, Independence' -- in which he had eulogised Pakistan founder M A Jinnah and blamed Jawaharlal Nehru [Images] and Sardar Patel for the partition of India. Soon after his expulsion, the BJP had demanded that Singh should quit the PAC chairman's post as he had been nominated by the party, to which he no longer belonged.

Senior BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj [Images] and S S Ahluwalia [Images] had met him on behalf of the party and requested him to resign, as there was no provision for his removal. Singh had refused to resign and the Speaker had also maintained that there was no provision to remove the PAC chairman unless he did it on his own or was incapacitated.

The resignation raised eyebrows, especially against the backdrop of Singh addressing L K Advani [Images] in Lok Sabha on Monday about the Gorkhaland issue, and the Leader of Opposition responding to him as 'my colleague'.

"I am surprised and saddened that you see some calculation. There is life beyond calculation even in politics. I did not calculate any advantage on the Gorkhaland issue," Singh said in reply to questions on whether the step was taken in the context of the exchange between him and Advani.

He said he believed that it was incorrect for political parties to ask chairmen of committees to vacate their seats. "This too is an encroachment on the propriety and prerogative of Parliament and its committees as tomorrow the parties will say 'write this in the report or don't write this'.

Singh said he was not a permanent denizen of this committee. He had enough political experience and continuing in office was not his overriding concern, he said.

Singh spoke about his resignation while chairing a meeting of the PAC in Parliament today afternoon. Asserting that he had not resigned under pressure from the BJP, he said "The day political parties start deciding as to when a member will demit chairmanship of a committee according to their convenience, that day the autonomy of parliamentary committees shall be finished."

Replying to another question, he said he had 'other interests'.

Elected from Darjeeling, he said he also strongly backed the Gorkhaland demand though he did not agree fully with whatever the Gorkha Jan Mukhti Morcha said. He said that he will complete by December 24 the three reports that are being prepared by the PAC.

These reports are on the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, mid-day meal scheme and the Scorpene deal.

The 22-member Public Accounts Committee is constituted by the Speaker each year for examination of accounts showing the appropriation of sums granted by the Parliament for the expenditure of the government of India.

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