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Is the prime minister really ready for a JPC?

By Renu Mittal
February 16, 2011 23:27 IST
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Is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh once again trying to derail the process of setting up a Joint Parliamentary Committee, for which hectic efforts have been made by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee having had a number of meetings with opposition leaders? 

This question surprisingly is doing the rounds in the Congress office after the prime minister's live televised press conference with senior TV editors where he made a frontal attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party.

What he indirectly meant was that the main opposition party was holding the government to ransom and wanted the action against a Gujarat minister reversed.

The reference is obviously to Amit Shah, BJP's minister in Gujarat known to be close to Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The prime minister left the sentence incomplete leaving the media wondering whether this disclosure would once again put a spook in the wheel of the ongoing negotiations between the government and the BJP. 

BJP president Nitin Gadkari, while denying this, has called it small minded on the part of the prime minister.

Congress leaders are finding it significant that the prime minister did not make even a tentative mention of the likelihood of a JPC saying "It's not a shut case on the JPC".

There is a view in the party that the BJP may react strongly on the prime minister's words on Amit Shah and it may again take a great deal of effort to bring matters back on track.

 

There is a section that believes that the prime minister wants to send the signal that the government is in the driving seat and is driving a hard bargain, and to dispel the impression that the government would lie down and the BJP can walk all over it.

The prime minister said during the press conference, in answer to a question, that he was not opposing the JPC and said he was not afraid of appearing before any committee, including the JPC.

He said it is a wrong perception to say that he was blocking the JPC. "As the prime minister my conduct should be like Caesar's wife, above suspicion", said the prime minister, making this statement not for the first time.

But there are those in the Congress party who are uncharitable enough to ask whether the prime minister really wants a JPC and when; and if the time comes, would he actually be prepared to go there and answer questions.

 

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Renu Mittal in New Delhi
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