Simmering differences between the Congress and the BJP came to the surface and a war of words broke out between the two after a report by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee led by senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi, targeted the Prime Minister’s Office and the Cabinet Secretariat over the 2G spectrum allocation scam.
The report also pointed the finger of blame at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his “desire to keep his office at arms’ length, which indirectly helped the scam to take place”.
The Congress and the DMK, meanwhile, burying their differences on the CBI’s probe against some members of DMK supremo M. Karunanidhi’s clan, both described the report as “politically motivated” and full of “mala fide intentions”. They also demanded the immediate resignation of the PAC chairman.
A meeting of the PAC scheduled to be held on Thursday is likely to be stormy, with its Congress and DMK members prepared to tear apart the draft report. All eyes are now on Samajwadi and BSP members in the 21-member committee to see what stand they adopt on the issue. Voting is likely to take place on whether or not to adopt the draft report and this is expected on Thursday. Dr Joshi wants to push the report through before the committee’s term ends on Saturday. Ruling coalition members on the committee are expected to stall it by seeking further discussion and seeking testimony by more witnesses, including jailed former communications minister A. Raja in a bid to prolong the process.
Differences had been raging within the PAC between the Congress-DMK group and the Opposition over the line of investigation and the committee’s “constitutional relevance”, particularly after a joint parliamentary committee was set up to probe the 2G spectrum scam.
The PAC’s draft report has indicted the PMO and former communications minister A. Raja over the scam. Sources said it also criticised the Prime Minister for some “unfortunate omissions”. Sources quoted the draft report as saying in its conclusion: “Last, but not the least, the Prime Minister’s desire to keep the PMO at arms’ length indirectly helped the communications minister (Mr Raja) to go ahead and execute his unfair, arbitrary and dubious designs.”
The draft report also attacked then finance minister P. Chidambaram for recommending to the Prime Minister to “treat the matter as closed” instead of taking action against those responsible for causing a loss to the exchequer.
“The committee was shocked and dismayed to note that the finance minister, in his note dated 15 February 2008, acknowledged that spectrum is a scarce resource and the price of spectrum should be based on its scarcity value and efficiency of usage, but made (the) unique and condescending suggestion that the matter be treated as closed”, the report is learnt to have observed. Sources said the draft also stated that the PMO “certainly either failed to see the foreboding or was rendered a mute spectator”.
The sources said that accusing the former communications minister, the report stated the committee was “highly perturbed” to note that the considered and imperative advice given by the Prime Minister and genuine concerns expressed by him on the developments in the telecom sector in his November 2007 letter to Mr Raja was “just disregarded”. It reportedly stated the Prime Minister was “in fact misled when he was informed by the minister (Raja) that the issue of auction of spectrum was considered but not recommended by the
Telecom Commission and also not recommended by Trai.” It went on: “The minister was saying a half-truth, concealing the other half, concealing his ulterior design.”
Indicting the PMO, according to sources, the report said: “The PMO did not enforce the transaction of business rules to sort out the difference of opinion between the minister for law and justice and the minister for communications and information technology.”
The report, however, had a few words of praise for then external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee. “Mr Mukherjee had in a note to the Prime Minister revealed that he had underlined the responsibility of the government to frame, revise and change the policy in a transparent manner, and then follow it in letter and spirit,” the report said.
Mr Raja was accused of “blatantly lying” and of “distorting” the policy. On the testimony by top corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, the draft report said she seemed to be “pre-determined not to come with the facts”. Asian Age