Rafale divides PAC politically once again

Congress president Rahul Gandhi with party leader Mallikarjun Kharge during a conference at AICC headquarters in New Delhi on Friday. PTI

The Public Accounts Committee, the mother of all parliamentary committees, is in for a fresh political row, this time over the Rafale issue, which has divided the members — of the only parliamentary panel which cannot submit a report without consensus — along party lines.

The Congress has attempted to take the wind out of the BJP's "clean chit" campaign by the BJP after the Supreme Court rejected a petition for probe in the Rafale deal.

The Congress cited paragraphs in the judgement that quoted the government submission that the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) submitted a report on Rafale to PAC, which examined it and submitted before Parliament.

Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, who is currently heading the PAC, denied having received or examined any such CAG report and said he would request all members of the panel to summon the attorney general and the CAG to ask them as to when the public auditor's report was tabled in Parliament.

The PAC, which had last met on November 15, is likely to meet again next month and the issue may crop up then.

The 12 BJP members in the 22-member panel are up in arms against such a move and one member from SAD may also back them. Shiv Sena, which has one member, may take a contrary stand.

But the numerical argument does not hold water for the PAC, which cannot adopt any report without consensus, which is also the case when it comes to summoning officials for examinations.

Earlier also, members in the PAC had reflected this political divide.

Making a history of sorts, PAC's BJP member Nishikant Dubey, in January 2017, had moved a privilege notice against the committee's chairman K V Thomas, accusing him of "lowering the dignity" of the committee and having "ulterior political motives".

Just days before, Thomas had insisted on calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi before the panel on the issue of demonetisation.

This was the first time that a member of a parliamentary panel had given a privilege notice against its chairman.

Differences over the contents of the demonetisation report continued and the PAC could not submit a report to the Parliament on the issue.

PAC's probe into the 2G scam had met a similar fate when Congress was in power and senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi was the chairman.

In 2010 and 2011, Joshi had made attempts to push a controversial report on the 2G scam.

He had also expressed his intention to summon the then prime minister Manmohan Singh before the panel. Memberes from Congress protested and stalled both the summons and the report.

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Rafale divides PAC politically once again

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