Sparks fly in LS over scams

In the House : Mukherjee flayed

After moving the motion for appointing the JPC, Finance Minister and Leader of Lok Sabha Pranab Mukherjee had a verbal duel with Leader of Opposition and veteran BJP MP, Sushma Swaraj. Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal too was attacked by the MPs of the BJP and other opposition parties, when he not only reiterated that the 2G scam did not cause any revenue loss, but also quoted from an old report of the Comptroller and Auditor General to accuse the erstwhile NDA Government of depriving the public exchequer of approximately Rs 12214 core due to irregularities in the process of awarding telecom licences.

Moving the motion, Mukherjee said that the lessons needed to be learnt by all from the deadlock was that it could be dangerous for democracy if the parliamentary proceedings was disrupted to put pressure on the government to accept a particular demand by the opposition. “Parliament cannot be mortgaged to the conceding of a demand,” said the Finance Minister, who had over the past four months been negotiating with the belligerent opposition.

He warned that if “hatred and disrespect for parliamentary institutions was generated, it would lead to the rise of extra-constitutional authorities” as had happened in a neighbouring country in 1958, when Martial Law had been imposed there.

Mukherjee expressed regret for failing to carry the opposition with him on the issue of the JPC for probing the 2G scam. He, however, sought to turn the table on the BJP and reminded that the then NDA government had rejected the Congress-led opposition’s demand for a probe into the defence scam that had been exposed by the Tehelka in 2001.

He recalled that senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley, who was a minister in the NDA government, had stated that a JPC to probe the defence scam unearthed by Tehelka could not be substituted by discussion on the floors of both the Houses of the Parliament.

Swaraj later criticised Mukherjee for comparing the opposition as the ‘Maoists’. But Mukherjee said that all he had wanted to mean was that while the Maoists did not believe in parliamentary democracy, the BJP-led opposition was weakening the Parliament by disrupting its proceedings.

The Leader of Opposition recalled that she, as the Health Minister of the then NDA government, had offered a JPC immediately after the Congress had sought a parliamentary panel to probe into the issue of pesticide content found in soft drinks of the PepsiCo.

She said the BJP-led opposition had been insisting on a JPC because a number of scams had surfaced indicating systemic rots.  Swaraj alleged that Sibal had sought to weaken a constitutional authority like the Comptroller and Auditor General by questioning its estimate (Rs 1.76 lakh crore) on the loss to exchequer due to the 2G allocations in 2008.
Amid noisy protests by the BJP MPs, led by Yashwant Sinha, Sibal stuck to his stand that the 2-G scam had not caused any revenue loss, as the First-Come-First-Serve mode of allocation of licences had been in practice since the NDA regime.

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