Today is the second day of the Monsoon Session of Parliament and it too could be turbulent one. The Manmohan Singh government is clearly on the backfoot and is definitely having a tough time with BJP’s barrage of issues ranging from rising prices to corruption and black money.
The Opposition party has chalked out a one point strategy – target PM.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, said that the Prime Minister has no answers on several issues, particularly the 2G scam as all the accused in jail have dragged in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in their defence.
The issue of price rise is expected to generate heat in Lok Sabha today with Left parties planning to move an adjournment motion and the BJP also seeking debate on the issue under a rule which entails voting.
The BJP is likely to bring in an adjournment motion in Rajya Sabha as well. The government had, on Monday, said that it doesn’t have a problem with a discussion on corruption and price rise, as long as the resolution moved by the Opposition does not refer specifically to a party or an individual.
“How is a debate possible on a resolution that does not include names?” asked CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury.
The BJP too joined the chorus. “The government is on the backfoot,” said the BJP’s Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley on Monday. “The guilty cannot lay down the rules of the game.” The government, they added, wants to protect the guilty behind “a purdah” (veil).
Before heading into Parliament on Monday, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh said that the government was ready to discuss all issues.
“Parliament should debate and discuss all issues of national importance and the government is quite prepared for any subject that the Opposition would like to be taken up. We would welcome a structured debate on that,” said Dr Singh.
But the BJP slammed him saying he hardly has any reply, and that its campaign against corruption will focus on him.
Starting with the telecom scam. The BJP says that the PM “is trying to pass the buck” by suggesting that he was not aware of how India’s largest-ever swindle was unfolding in his Telecom Department in 2008. In fact, the BJP charges, the PM micro-managed the telecom policy that resulted in such vertiginous consequences. At the time, A Raja was the Telecom Minister. He is now in jail for distributing valuable mobile network licenses and accompanying second-generation or 2G spectrum at below-market rates to companies who allegedly paid him kickbacks. Mr Raja has been charged with willfully ignoring advice to auction spectrum – which would have earned the government much more revenue. In his defence, Mr Raja has said that he chose simply to follow the policies of his predecessors, including those in the BJP-led NDA regime, which was voted out in 2004, when Dr Singh’s government came to power.
Dr Singh and others in the government have said that the first-come-first-serve policy that was sanctioned for use in 2008 was not the problem. Instead, it was Mr Raja’s twisted implementation that allowed companies he collaborated with to jump to the head of the queue to grab licenses. But the BJP says that records suggest then Finance Minister P Chidambaram preferred an auction. The Opposition wants to know why he changed his mind.
The 2G scam is being investigated by the CBI and is being closely monitored by the Supreme Court. “The matters in court are best left for court to decide,” said the PM this morning.
But the PM, says the Opposition, was not unaware of Mr Raja’s intent or actions. It has referred to a noting in a government file which says the Prime Minister’s Office is to be kept “at arm’s length.” This, claims the BJP, shows the PM knew of how Mr Raja was bending the rules.
In a clarification issued on Sunday, the Prime Minister’s Office said that the remark is being misinterpreted. Dr Singh simply wanted to share “informal suggestions” with the departments concerned – including the Telecom Ministry and the government’s regulatory arm on telecom TRAI.
The BJP also blamed the PM for “spoiling the atmosphere” of this Parliament session by stating that the Opposition too has “many skeletons in its cupboard.” Ms Swaraj and Mr Jaitley described his remark as “unprovoked and ill-advised.”
They also said this was the PM’s way of “sidetracking the issue” because he is “faced with several questions because of recent disclosures relating to the allotment of 2G spectrum and he does not have replies.” NDTV