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PAC versus JPC: The Inside Story?
|by Dr. Rajinder Puri|
The political fog in Delhi is even heavier than the climatic fog. But after peering at the shadowy figures grappling in the mist one may conjecture the inner party intrigues and the cross party cooperation under way. When politics across party lines ceases to be impelled by either policy or ideology what remains is naked power struggle. The visible conflict over the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) versus the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) masks reality. The conflict in fact is between LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi within the BJP, and between 10 Janpath and 7 Race Course Road within the Congress. Ignore the praise lavished by Sonia Gandhi on PM. The very need for such public endorsement betrays unease. And there are distinct signs of common interests colluding across parties. Consider the following facts and connect the dots.
Speaking in Parliament the Prime Minister declared: “I have nothing to hide.” Oh yes you have, chorused the opposition. If you have nothing to hide why not allow the JPC to be formed? The decision to disallow the JPC was taken by the core committee of the Congress Party. The PM could not very well go against that decision. The JPC can summon any minister for questioning. The PAC cannot.
To probe the Spectrum 2G scam if ministers are grilled Congress future could suffer. How will Rahul Gandhi become PM? Why, already when he closes his eyes Chidambaram sees Rajiv whenever Rahul speaks! Therefore Congress blocked the JPC. But it was the PM who became the opposition’s target. This was odd. After all the main opposition criticism of the PM has been that he behaves like a helpless dummy ordered about by Sonia Gandhi.
In the event, how come that all the opposition’s blame for condoning corruption in the 2G Scam falls only on the PM and never on Sonia Gandhi? Well, if one digs deeply enough one may find links between sections of the BJP and Congress even closer than those forged between them by the mining operations in Andhra and Karnataka.
To deflect criticism from him the PM went further. Departing from a written speech at a Congress Party function he caught his party colleagues by surprise. He suddenly announced that he was prepared to be questioned by the PAC which is chaired by BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi. Thereby the PM succeeded in conveying that his party’s reluctance to allow a JPC did not stem from the desire to protect him. There are others who might be seeking protection. The opposition led by the BJP set up a howl. Rules were cited that precluded the PAC from summoning ministers. The opposition alarm increased after the purposeful manner in which Joshi proceeded with the PAC’s job of probing the 2G Scam within its brief. Joshi correctly pointed out that the rules precluded the PAC from summoning a minister. No rule prevented the PAC from questioning a minister who volunteered to be questioned. Like the proverbial sphinx Joshi did not confirm or deny whether he would take up the PM’s offer.
The puzzle remains. If the PAC shows even limited success in its probe, that would not prevent the JPC from being formed. Rather it would strengthen the case for a fuller inquiry by the JPC. Why then the BJP panic over the PAC probe? The panic arises not from the fact that the PAC would fail. Rather, it appears to arise from the fear that the PAC might succeed. If that happened, Joshi would become the hero. Where would that leave Advani? The two are old rivals. It might be recalled that during the Jain Hawala case in which Advani allegedly received Rs 60 lakhs, something that he publicly neither confirmed nor denied, some party men advised Joshi who was BJP President then to state that the fund had been deposited in the party coffers. Joshi refused. That certainly did not improve relations between both the leaders.
Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj, an Advani loyalist, is openly pressuring Joshi to abandon the PAC probe. Joshi remains unmoved. In desperation the Advani group sought help from the RSS to curb Joshi. The RSS advised both leaders to do their respective jobs. RSS pointed out that the PAC did not preclude the JPC. Now it remains to be seen how events move forward. In the natural course such silent cross party collusions would have resulted in major political realignment across the political spectrum. But that is unlikely to happen.
Indians are half hearted warriors who fight only with half measures. They are always willing to wound but afraid to strike.
Political realignment seems out, more chaos seems in.
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