Centre in hurry to fill vacancies in JPC probing 2G scam

With two vacancies in the 30-member Joint Parliamentary Committee constituted to probe into the 2G scam, filling up these slots has become strategically crucial for the UPA government as it would decide the fate of the draft report which gave a clean chit to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P Chidambaram.

The report, which indicted former telecom Minister A Raja, is yet to be accepted by the committee.

The vacancies were created following the retirement of DMK leader Tiruchi Siva from the Rajya Sabha and the appointment of Congress member E M Sudarshana Natchiappan as a Union minister.

While the Congress can send one of its members to the JPC in place of Natchiappan, there is a debate on who would fill the other slot, an MP from the DMK or the AIADMK, since the latter’s numbers increased in the Upper House after the recent elections.

“Though the panel can function with 28 members, I have to consult all political parties before taking a decision on convening the next meeting to take up the draft report,” P C Chacko, chairman of the panel, told Deccan Herald. “I am also going to meet Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari to decide on filling up the vacant slots.”

The Congress, which is struggling to reach the half-way mark, has already started a dialogue with the DMK to get its members’ support for various parliamentary panels, particularly the JPC, a pound of flesh the ruling party is extracting for lending a helping hand to get DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi have a second term in the Upper House from Tamil Nadu.

The DMK has now been pushed to a catch-22 situation. The Dravidian party will find it difficult to oblige the ruling alliance given their previous stand demanding rejection of the draft report after the panel did not call Raja for deposition. All eyes will be fixed on the DMK’s stand in the next meeting, said political observers. The DMK leaders, however, refused to comment.

The Congress is also in touch with the Samajwadi Party which has nine members in the Rajya Sabha. None of its Upper House MPs are in the JPC. Selection of a DMK or SP member to the panel will help the Congress to get the draft report accepted by the members.

The Opposition is favouring the election route. It hopes that one member of the AIADMK, which will have seven members, could be sent to the panel. As the panel is from the Lok Sabha, the Upper House has to decide the members through voting. “Let the House decide who should go to the JPC,” an Opposition member said.

As the vacancies are from the Rajya Sabha, the Speaker will have to take up the matter with the Rajya Sabha chairman, who would consult floor leaders before taking a decision. Though Chacko said he wanted to convene the next meeting to approve the draft report soon, it is unlikely to happen till the vacancies are filled.

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