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UPA may settle for a 30-member JPC to include smaller parties

By A Correspondent
February 18, 2011 19:44 IST
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The United Progressive Alliance is seriously considering increasing the strength of the proposed Joint Parliamentary Committee on 2G scam from 21 to 30 members to accommodate more parties, but it is in no mood to expand the scope of the JPC to cover the Commonwealth Games fiasco, the Adarsh Society scam and the cancelled ISRO S-band spectrum sale.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, however, hinted at a media briefing on the upcoming Parliament session from Monday, that the government wants to accommodate more parties by making the JPC a 30-member body, with 20 members from the Lok Sabha, but said the final decision would be taken on the floor of the House.

The government will move the resolution for the JPC in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, a full working day after the customary adjournment on the opening day which is devoted to the President's address to the joint session of Parliament.

Bansal, however, made it clear that a JPC can take up only one issue and as such the government was committed to have it on the 2G spectrum allocation. He said it is up to the House to decide the terms of reference of the probe but they should be limited to the 2G issue, while the government will suggest it to cover the telecom policy since 1998 when the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance was in power.

In an informal arrangement with BJP leaders Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj, Lok Sabha  leader Pranab Mukherjee had agreed to a JPC which was to have 14 members from the Lok Sabha and 7 from Rajya  Sabha. This would mean that the Left parties and other smaller parties would not be represented on the JPC.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam are mounting pressure to have a large-sized JPC

as otherwise they may not find a place on it.

However, the AIADMK may not find any berth even in a 30-member JPC as it has just 9 members in the Lok Sabha. Though there are no separate rules, a berth in the JPC is conventionally decided on the basis of proportional representation.

Besides the Congress and the BJP getting eight and four seats respectively from the Lok Sabha on the basis of their strength in the House, one seat each may go to eight other parties on the basis of their numbers in the Lok Sabha: Samajwadi Party which has 22 MPs, Bahujan Samaj Party which has 21 MPs, the Janata  Dal-United which has 20 MPs, the Trimanul Congress which has 19 MPs, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam which has 18 MPs, the Communist Party of India-Marxist which has 16 MPs, the Biju Janata Dal which has 14 MPs and Shiv Sena which has 11 MPs.

AIADMK will protest that the proposed JPC will be dominated by the Congress and the BJP whose irregularities in the telecom sector are to be probed by it and therefore it should have more members from the parties who are not under scrutiny.

By tradition, a member from the ruling party becomes chairman of the JPC and that also gives advantage to the Congress, Communist Party of India-Marxist politburo member Sitaram Yechuri underlined while advancing the case for a 30-member JPC -- similar to the parliamentary standing committees that also have 30 members.

After the government agreed to the JPC, there will be now be a tussle over the JPC's terms of reference as the Congress wants specific terms while the BJP wants a broad-based probe to bring under the JPC's scanner, any new aspects that may emerge in the course of its proceedings.

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A Correspondent in New Delhi
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