Joshi 'ousted' as PAC chief

Joshi 'ousted' as PAC chief

Joshi 'ousted' as PAC chief

Thursday’s crucial PAC meeting, which was to circulate the panel’s 2G scam draft report, which has held the Prime Minister’s Office and the Cabinet Secretariat responsible for failing to take “corrective action” in preventing the huge loss to the exchequer, was effectively scuttled by 11 ruling party and SP and BSP members. The PAC is a 22-member body with one vacancy.

They rejected the report and declared they had “elected” Congress Rajya Sabha member Saifuddin Soz as the committee chairman. This move itself was violative of parliamentary norms according to which the PAC chairman should be from the principal Opposition party. They quoted Rule 61, claiming that a majority of members on the PAC had decided on “electing” a new chairman.

Members backing Joshi said a Rajya Sabha member can not head a Lok Sabha panel – the PAC. They said the task of the PAC was “finished” and the next logical step would be to submit the report to the Lok Sabha Speaker.

The PAC meeting that began shortly after 11 am debated “leakage of the report” and it’s alleged “outsourcing” before it broke for lunch. Congress members, according to sources, sought summoning of  former telecom minster A Raja for questioning. But it was in the post-lunch session that the meeting witnessed slogan-shouting from Congress, SP, BSP and DMK members who sought a division and a vote on the report. PAC chairman and veteran BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi allowed each member to express his views, but this did not stop the Congress-led group from disrupting the proceedings and “dismissing” the report.

Shortly after the  bedlam, Joshi said in the Parliament premises that he would have to look into all kinds of allegations, including “outsourcing”, “leakage of the report” and members speaking on television about the document. Refusing to comment on when the report would be submitted, Joshi said “there are still two days left”. The current PAC’s term lasts till the end of this month.

Condemning the action, BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “We see these attacks as a part of pattern. We want to know, how is it that when Manmohan Singh found him (Joshi) competent as the PAC chief, how can he be called a villain.”

Reacting to the unsavoury developments, BJP MP Bhartruhari Mahtab said “Joshi remains the chairman and it is upto him to send the report to the Speaker or take any other action that he deems suitable.” Describing the action of the Congress and other members to elect a “new chairman” as “juvenile and childish”, Mahtab said only the Lok Sabha Speaker can decide on a new PAC chairman after following due procedures.
Besides holding the PMO and the Cabinet Secretariat responsible for their failure to take “corrective action”, the report has censured Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for “some unfortunate ommissions” and made strong adverse remarks against P Chidambaram who, at the time of spectrum allocation in 2008, was the finance minister.

On its part, the Congress, which, as the party leading the UPA government, is having to answer for a slew of corruption charges, attacked Joshi for his “partisan acts” accused him of breaking public confidence and trust in the parliamentary institution.

Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said Joshi “tried a cloak and dagger exercise”.

But Mahtab said the Congress members, who till Wednesday were referring to the spectrum case as “sub judice”, were now demanding that Raja be summoned afterthe draft report was already in the public domain.

Pointing out that not all members need agree on the report’s contents, Mahtab said the “same the thing happened with the Kargil reports, Operation Desert and the coffin scam. As per rules, he said, any complaint against the committee’s proceedings could “only be routed through the chairman only which has not happened today”. The BJP MP said there was no rule to reject the report.

Congress, DMK and SP members complained that important annexures to the draft report were not circulated to the committee members. “There is incongruity in the narrative part and reports observation part”, they said.

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