JPC announcement only a formality

In all probability, the government will announce the setting up of the JPC on the floor of the House on February 22. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is likely to make an announcement in the two houses on the morning of Tuesday.

The panel would have a total of 21 members – 14 from Lok Sabha and seven from Rajya Sabha – and would be headed by a MP from Congress, the largest party in Parliament. Top seven largest parties would have membership on the panel based on their proportionate strength.

The PM may read out a two-para motion on the setting up of the panel for which the terms of reference, its time-frame would be announced later. The panel may be set a short deadline.

The Opposition demand on JPC was clinched at two separate meetings that the PM and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had with Opposition leaders in the two Houses – Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitely on Wednesday.

The breaking of the ice has come after a sustained three-month campaign by an united Opposition which did not come down from its demand for JPC. The demand saw the entire winter session of Parliament become a washout.

Aware that it cannot afford another washout especially in the crucial budget session, the government decided to blink with the PM saying on Wednesday that he was prepared to appear before any panel, including the JPC and hinted that he was looking forward to a smooth session.

The two-month long session will start on February 21 with an address to the joint session of two Houses by President Pratibha Patil following which the two House will meet for a short while to enable a copy of the speech to be tabled.

The government will move the motion on JPC the next day. However, it is not yet clear whether the government will insist on a debate to precede the setting up of the JPC, as being insisted by the Congress.

The BJP is opposed to the debate while the Left parties are fine with debate but opposed to voting on it as they do not want to be seen voting alongside the BJP in favour of the JPC.

The government and Opposition leaders are likely to hold few more meetings to arrive at an agreement on the wording of the motion/resolution.

 

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