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May 22, 2011

Page: 46/48

Home > 2011 Issues > May 22, 2011

Media watch
Congress rowdyism at PAC


THE Congress has come for very severe condemnation for its behaviour at the last meeting of the Public Accounts Committee and the party, if it has any sense of shame and decency must apologise for its crudeness. The Asian Age (April 30) was unsparing in its criticism. “The mind-boggling and deeply mortifying events that took place in Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee” it said, “have brought down the image of the most important committee of the nation’s legislature, furthering discrediting our MPs in the eyes of ordinary people.” The paper wondered “if there is any point at all in having such groups of MPs culled from the larger parliamentary chamber.” It noted that “considerable decline in political ethics and political conduct has come to be noticed across the spectrum in the country in recent years” and added that “but even by contemporary standards what was witnessed in the PAC was a plunge so shameful that it could hardly have been envisaged.” “A sadder day for our Parliament has not been seen in a long time.” However, the paper was also critical of Dr Murli Manohar Joshi for “going public day after day”, suggesting that “it was a clean breach of established norms”.

Deccan Herald (April 30) noted that “in the last few days, the Congress and the DMK members (have) not only disrupted the functioning of the PAC and prevented senior government officials from deposing before it, but had also taken “the unprecedented step of ‘ousting’ Joshi from PAC chairmanship with the help of SP and BSP members and ‘electing’ Saifuddin Soz as the new chairman”. As for the PAC report, said the paper “there is no denying that it laid bare the shenanigans which went into scandalous allocation of 2G Spectrum to a select few companies which caused the loss of thousands of crores of rupees to the exchequer.” The paper concluded by saying that “the removal of Joshi as PAC chairman – the first of its kind in the last 62 years – shows the utter contempt the UPA government has for parliamentary democracy.”

The Hindu (April 30) was equally stern in its condemnation of the UPA government. It said: “The attempts by members of the ruling United Progressive Alliance to discredit and dump the entire draft of PAC report have gone beyond tolerable levels of political partisanship – and now threaten parliamentary procedures and established norms.” The paper said that “nothing could possibly justify the desperate methods adopted by the ruling coalition members at the PAC meeting”, adding that the “appropriateness of vote” subsequently taken is itself in question “as Dr Joshi says he adjourned the meeting seeking time to examine the allegations of discrepancies in the report”.

The paper said in conclusion that “the ruling coalition members would be well-advised to discuss all the facts and issues brought up by the draft report, rather than to seek to use its thin majority in the PAC to politically shield those involved in or accountable for, India’s biggest corruption scandal.”

Hindustan Times (April 30) thought that “the vehemence with which the UPA members of the PAC have rejected the report is puzzling and worrying” and that “allegations that the report was outsourced and that the PAC had no right to criticise the PM, go against the very grain of Mr. Singh’s desire to resolve this issue.” The paper pointed out that “if the members who have rejected the report feel that their views weren’t accommodated in it, they could surely have put this forward in a democratic manner” considering that “the atomosphere in the country today on the issue of corruption is such that this move will raise further doubts instead of making things more transparent.” Allegations that the draft report was leaked may be valid, but, said the paper, “that alone is not reason enough to reject it in its entirety”. The report is now more or less public property. It is critical of the PM’s office and of the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram.

Of the latter, the report as published by The Hindu, says “The Committee is shocked and dismayed to note that the Finance Minister, in his note dated January 15, 2008, acknowledge that Spectrum is a scarce resource and the price of Spectrum should be based on its scarcity value and efficiency of usage but made a unique and condescending suggestion that the matter be treated as closed.”

Not sparing even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the report said the Prime Minister wanting to keep the PMO at “arm’s length” from the 2G Spectrum issue seemed to have given an ‘indirect green signal’ to the former Telecom Minister A Raja to go ahead and execute his unfair, arbitrary and dubious designs.” No wonder the UPA members of the PAC lost their cool. Truth is always painful.

About the operators involved in the 2G scam itself The Telegraph (April 28) had some points to make. It is time, said the paper “that politicians and political parties in power stopped displaying their obvious reluctance to catch the big fish”, reminding them of “the tug of war preceding A Raja’s arrest”. The paper said that it was “important to know, as soon as possible, whether Ministers or officials have actually been defrauding the country or whether they have been coerced and framed”, in which case, the paper continued “the real villains need to be caught”. It added: “Delay is useful. Popular interest and memory begin to lose their edge, cynicism overtakes the first flush of hope and layers of time gradually smother issues of corruption and justice, both specific and general. The most corrupt can then quietly and happily disappear with their ill-gotten gains.” Therefore, the paper said, “after governments have let the corrupt go free for years, a clear line of action with transparent trail proceedings is needed now to convince the people of the intention to clear up.”

Will the re-nomination of Dr Murli Manohar Joshi as chairman of PAC (his term had ended on May 1) in any way help? The report, whether it represents the unanimous views of the PAC or not, is now on the table of the Speaker. We can be sure of only one thing: The Congress is not going to keep quiet when its reputation – such as is still left – is under challenge. There will be more mud-slinging at Dr Joshi, to say the least. It only shows that Congress is on its last leg.

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