NATIONAL CORRUPTION ‘SEETHING AND BOILING’: Voda versus Tata (plus Anil) – how long can it be hidden ?!! situation getting stickier for the Congress & UPA for skeletons in their cupboards now exposing themselves one after another ?!! vote of ‘No Confidence’ next ?!!
Commonwealth Games organising committee chief and Congress MP Suresh Kalmadi, who is facing allegations of corruption, reaches Parliament on Monday after returning from the Asian Games in China. (PTI) - not all washed out but rather defiant, yet ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
New Delhi, Nov. 29: Ratan Tata has set the radio waves crackling as a fresh war of words broke out today over his charge that some telecom titans have hogged extra spectrum without paying a dime for it.
Vodafone Essar rubbished Tata’s implicit charge that some GSM players had been hoarding spectrum in violation of rules.
Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) is a technology that came out of Europe and is the standard used by 80 per cent of the world’s mobile networks.
In an interview aired on NDTV on Saturday, Tata had said the government needed to deal with “people who have excess spectrum. They should pay for it or return it. They have deprived others of the spectrum.”
In Mumbai, one of the eight suspects arrested on the charge of taking bribes to give real estate loans covers his face while being taken to court. (AFP) - at least remorse and regret, not at 'guilt' but rather at being finally caught ?!!
“It is ridiculous to imply that the incumbent GSM players are hoarding spectrum,” Vodafone Essar said in a statement today.
“There has been no violation of licence conditions in the allotment of additional spectrum beyond 6.2 MHz. No spectrum in excess of what was permissible has been granted to any mobile operator,” Vodafone added.
Spectrum is a stack of wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation necessary to offer any form of wireless services, including mobile telephony. The Tatas use code division multiple access (CDMA) technology as well as GSM.
However, Tata found an unlikely ally in Anil Ambani’s Reliance Communications (R-Com) — another telecom player that largely uses CDMA technology — which also accused the old GSM operators of snagging spectrum for free between May 2008 and March 2009.
A Raja - still confident of using the DMK tail to wag the Congress and UPA dog, while the national ex-checker lost billions - maybe not any longer ?!!
“They (the old GSM operators) did not even pay for excess spectrum at the old rates. Reliance Communications and the Tatas have consistently raised this issue with the department of telecommunications,” the Anil Ambani group company said.
R-Com was also taking a sideswipe at the comptroller and auditor general’s recent report which said that some of the new telecom players had bagged spectrum out of turn by paying prices that had been fixed in 2001.
Swan Telecom — one of those new telecom entities —– initially had R-Com as one of its shareholders. On Monday, telecom minister Kapil Sibal referred its case to the ministry of corporate affairs to unveil its true antecedents.
Bharti Airtel — Asia’s largest mobile service provider which claims a subscriber base of over 200 million in 19 countries — chose to remain silent even as the furious debate polarised players along the fault lines of technology.
At present, GSM and CDMA operators get 4.4 MHz and 2.5 MHz of start-up radio frequencies, respectively, when they pay the licence fee. The allotment for GSM operators rises to 6.2 MHz on attaining a certain subscriber threshold.
However, in some circles, including Mumbai and Delhi, Vodafone and Airtel were granted as much as 10 MHz of spectrum in order to provide fault-free services to a very large subscriber base.
India has allotted 100 MHz of spectrum to GSM players — 25 MHz spectrum in the 900 MHz band and 75 MHz in the 1800 MHz band. In contrast, it has allotted only 20 MHz in the 800 MHz band to CDMA players.
Airtel has 168.8 MHz in the 22 circles in which it operates — giving it the largest share of radio waves in the country. Vodafone has 143.6 MHz in the same number of circles.
Reliance has 97.5 MHz in the 800 MHz CDMA band while the Tatas have only 80 MHz. Both also have some spectrum in the GSM frequencies after they decided to straddle both technologies.
Since the radio band allocation is restricted to a telecom circle, there is multiple counting of the same band when toting up a player’s total allocation of radio frequencies.
GSM players, who started operations in the early nineties, have often been accused of being inefficient users of spectrum. Most studies show that CDMA, which entered the country almost a decade later, is a far more efficient user of the radio waves.
Vodafone today tried to twist the efficiency argument on its head.
“The CDMA spectrum has the capacity to serve at least 4 to 5 times more subscribers than GSM. It is the CDMA operators who are under-utilising spectrum as they are using it at levels far below the efficiency of the GSM players,” said Vodafone.
The Tatas have always maintained that they were deprived of spectrum in the crucial Delhi circle even though they should have got priority over R-Com in the allocation of spectrum.
Tata moves to protect privacy – Petition in court against disclosures – desperate to save the business reputation of the country ?!!
Ratan Tata - smiles prematurely, trying to safeguard the National Business Integrity or just his own hide ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH LEGAL CORRESPONDENT
New Delhi, Nov. 29: Tata group chairman Ratan Tata today moved the Supreme Court seeking to restrain the broadcast and publication of purported conversations between him and lobbyist Niira Radia who is under investigation in the 2G spectrum allocation case.
The petition, filed through corporate lawyer Ryan Karanjawala, said that the tapes could be used for investigative purposes but should not be made public as it “infringed” on his “right to privacy”. Senior lawyer Harish N. Salve will argue the case at the next hearing scheduled for tomorrow.
This is possibly the first time a high-profile industrialist has moved the Supreme Court seeking to protect his privacy. Actress Monica Bedi had earlier moved the top court on this ground after her purported photographs in a prison shower were published. The court had then restrained all publications from publishing the photographs.
But in Tata’s case, the tapes are already in public domain. At best, the court can restrain any repeat publication of the transcripts of the tapes.
The tapes are part of the 5,851 calls intercepted allegedly by the income tax department and the enforcement directorate as part of investigations into the 2G scandal. Tata’s petition may also prompt the government to take action to prevent any more leaks. The government today ordered a probe to establish how the contents of the tapes were leaked.
Tata has also demanded that the court direct the government to take action against those who were responsible for the leaks.
The purported conversations give the impression that Tata was not too keen on having DMK leader A. Raja as telecom minister, expressing his preference for Dayanidhi Maran.
Tata Teleservices was one of the contenders for 2G licence and Radia handled the company’s public relations.
In his petition, Tata contended that intercepts of the conversations between Radia and him violated his right to privacy.
The Supreme Court had earlier held that the right to privacy was part of the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution. Tata said that the recorded conversations should have been used for investigation alone and should not have been published.
His petition said that he was not challenging the government’s right to investigate the 2G scam but only the unauthorised publication of the transcripts.
The Radia tapes feature purported conversations she had with several journalists, politicians and industrialists, apparently trying to lobby for cabinet berths for particular parties. The tapes have been circulating on the Web and have been published by two magazines.
Raja has had to step down in the aftermath of the scam. The CBI has already registered a case against unknown companies and individuals. However, the Supreme Court has panned the agency for dragging its feet on the probe.
Reacting to Tata’s petition, the counsel for the Centre for Public Interest Litigation, an NGO that has called for court monitoring of the CBI probe, said he would contest the Tata plea.
“We are seriously considering filing an application in the Supreme Court to ensure that there is no injunction against these tapes and these recordings are put out in public domain,” lawyer Prashant Bhushan said. “These are not private conversations. These are conversations between a lobbyist and her clients… bureaucrats, journalists and ministers. These show glimpses of all kinds of fixing and deal-making and show how the whole ruling establishment functions. There is enormous public interest in putting these tapes out. It is absurd for Mr Tata to say that this is an invasion of his privacy,” he said.
The CBI today filed a status report in the court on the 2G scam. The agency said it would take some more time to probe the case and would question Raja as and when the need arose.
The CBI said it did not intend to investigate piecemeal and needed more time to complete the probe. The case will be heard tomorrow.
Govt probes tape leak – self regulatory body trustworthy enough, maybe not by a long shot ?!!
Illegal phone tapping - too unethical to even consider ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
New Delhi, Nov. 29: The Centre today ordered a probe into the leak of lobbyist Niira Radia’s purported phone conversations allegedly tapped by the income tax department.
The home ministry announced the probe on the same day Tata group chairman Ratan Tata moved the Supreme Court demanding action against people responsible for leaking the contents of tapes. The Radia tapes feature purported conversations she had with journalists, politicians and industrialists, including Tata.
A home ministry spokesperson said the order for the probe, which will be conducted by the intelligence bureau and Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), was issued today.
However, a senior ministry official claimed that the directive had nothing to do with Tata moving the court. “This is just a coincidence that the order has been issued today. The decision to order a probe had been taken several days ago,” the official said.
Although the intelligence bureau was mentioned, the CBDT will be investigating the case on its own. The CBDT has been claiming that it had tapped Radia’s phone with the permission of the home ministry.
Of the 5,000-odd of Radia’s conversations that were tapped, 104 were leaked over the past couple of weeks.
Tata, in the petition today, said the leak infringed upon his fundamental right to life, which includes right to privacy. Tata has made the central government a party in his petition. The transcripts that have been leaked include Radia’s conversations with several journalists and a former bureaucrat who is now an MP.
Tata has named the home secretary, CBI, income tax department, department of telecommunication and the department of information technology as respondents in the petition.
The hearing will resume tomorrow.
Adviser suspended – and so the pruning begins ?!!
The government today suspended Santokh Singh, a law ministry legal adviser who was till recently posted with the telecom department and associated with the controversial affidavit filed in the Supreme Court.
In the affidavit, the department had denied allegations that it ignored the advice of the Prime Minister, finance secretary and the law ministry over allotment of spectrum and said all licences were given “as per law and in keeping with the extant policy and procedures”.
Singh, a joint secretary-level officer, was suspended after a probe was ordered into his role in advising the telecom department in spectrum allocation.
“Since the probe ordered against him is unlikely to be completed before his retirement, he would get provisional pension… he would not retire gracefully,” said a law ministry official. Singh has two more months of service left.
The Indian legal service officer was transferred back to the law ministry a few days ago.
Pages go missing from Adarsh file – desperate attempts at mysterious cover-ups ?!!
Ashok Chavan - former Maharashtra Chief Minister - not as innocent as he makes himself out to be ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY SADAF MODAK
Mumbai, Nov. 27: The urban development department has filed a complaint of theft of several pages from a file on the Adarsh Housing Society amid allegations that the papers were stolen to shield officials involved with the high-rise scam.
Officials at Marine Drive police station registered a case of theft and attempt to destroy records against unknown persons after Gurudutt Vajpe, a secretary in the urban development department, complained that the papers were taken away from the office without permission.
The complaint, filed yesterday, said pages 15, 97, 99 and 297 were missing from the notings of the correspondence department in the urban development ministry.
The file, from which the pages are missing, relates to the period between August 30, 2009, and November 1, 2010, when former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan was in charge of the urban development department.
Chavan had to step down on November 9 after allegations of involvement in the scam at the housing society, where flats meant for Kargil war widows were allotted to relatives of politicians, defence officials and bureaucrats.
A senior CBI official today claimed it was the agency that first found that certain notings related to the final phase of the scam had gone missing and had brought it to the notice of the state government.
The CBI, Mumbai, has started a preliminary inquiry into the scam, and collected documents from various state departments, including the Mumbai collectorate and the urban development department.
Former IPS officer-turned-lawyer Y.P. Singh, who has filed a public interest litigation in Bombay High Court on the scam, said the papers could have been stolen to hide manipulation of documents.
“The scam involves falsification of documents and papers. For certain officials, it would have been less perilous to have the files removed than them being investigated for forgery,” Singh said.
Singh had earlier filed a complaint with the state anti-corruption bureau and urged it to launch criminal proceedings against former chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and IAS officials, including Ramanand Tiwari.
Tiwari’s son Onkar is among the 103 persons who were allotted a flat in the Colaba high-rise.
The 31-storey building, originally meant to have six floors, has also been found to have violated coastal regulation zone laws and floor space index rules.
Prithviraj Chavan, who replaced Ashok Chavan as chief minister, retained urban development along with housing and general administration.
Tata seeks probe into real scam – ‘Stop banana republic attacks’ – lashing out at any and all criticisms while the ‘aam aadmi’ remains ignorant and kept that way on purpose ?!!
Ratan Tata - lashing out at critics for being not forceful enough ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU
Nov. 26: Ratan Tata has said the government should bring in an auditor to investigate the real 2G spectrum allocation scam so that the “banana republic kind of attack” can stop.
Breaking his silence on what he termed “character assassination”, Tata told NDTV: “I wish the government would take a stand, bring (in) an auditor… and have an investigation (after which it can) book people who are guilty of something. But stop this sort of banana republic kind of attack.”
The interview, conducted by mediaperson Shekhar Gupta in his Walk the Talkprogramme, airs on Saturday.
Tata was upset with “the character assassination” that had followed the report of the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) on the out-of-turn 2G spectrum allocation in early 2008 and the circulation of the so-called Niira Radia tapes.
The tapes feature purported phone conversations lobbyist Radia had with politicians, journalists and industrialists, including Tata.
Tata said the whole objective appeared to be to throw a “smoke screen behind what is really the so-called scam which really is out-of-turn allocation of spectrum, hoarding of spectrum by important players for free and things of this nature”.
Tata was referring to the way in which then telecom minister A. Raja had issued 122 telecom licences in January 2008 to nine companies along with 2G spectrum at prices that had been fixed in 2001.
Tata made no mention of it but the CAG report had said nine existing operators were allotted spectrum beyond the upper limit as specified in the Unified Access Servicing Licence. All nine operators are established early birds in the telecom market.
The CAG report had said the department of telecommunications had no qualms about doling out spectrum to the existing players beyond the contracted limit without any upfront charges being imposed.
Tata referred to the Radia tapes featuring the purportedly tapped conversations as “unauthorised” but did not elaborate.
The alleged phone-tapping has always been attributed to the income-tax department but it has not been established with certainty if the interception had been done with authorisation by the government.
On Monday, the CBI filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court, saying it had asked the income-tax department on November 26, 2009, to provide the complete recordings along with “the original permission letter of MHA (ministry of home affairs) for interception”.
The CBI affidavit details how the recordings were eventually handed over but does not refer again to the “original permission letter”.
Tata said he was troubled by the way the mood in the country had gone from exultation to despair in a matter of a few weeks since President Barack Obama’s visit. “It’s a murky time… I think it’s a bad time,” Tata said.
“Just a couple of weeks ago, we were sitting … on top of a summit with President Obama showering praise on what we had done… talking of us having emerged and not being an emerging force. (Since) then, we have slipped into a series of allegations, unauthorised tapes… the media going crazy… alleging, convicting, executing.”
Tata deplored attacks on the “basis (of) unsubstantiated” (information), without considering “every Indian’s right, namely to be considered innocent until found guilty in a court of law, not on the street… not in this way.”
Ten days ago, Tata had said his group had to abandon a plan to float an airline in 1996 because he wasn’t comfortable with the idea of offering a Rs 15-crore bribe to a minister.
The Tatas had secured an approval from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board to rope in Singapore Airlines as its partner in the venture. However, the plan was scuttled after the minister allegedly persuaded the then cabinet to pass a notification.
Raja probe poser to CBI – CBI a ‘Congress Bureau of Investigation’ suspicion now proving itself in desperate times till the Congress loses all power ?!!
CBI - Central or Congress Bureau of Investigation - impartial or party biased ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH LEGAL CORRESPONDENT
New Delhi, Nov. 25: The Supreme Court today wondered why A. Raja and two top telecom officials had not been questioned over the 2G spectrum allocations, saying the CBI was “beating around the bush” despite the CAG’s revelations of several irregularities.
“You have said 8,000 documents have been examined. Still, you are beating around the bush. Why has no one has been questioned. It (questioning the former telecom minister, his telecom secretary and another official) is the minimum expected from the CBI,” a bench of Justice Ashok Kumar Ganguly and Justice G.S. Singhvi said, a day after declaring that they would ensure an “honest” probe.
Justice Singhvi, the senior judge on the panel, pointed out that the CBI had information that Swan Telecom had transferred its licence to others for Rs 5,000-6,000 crore within a few days of getting it. “It would have brought at least Rs 9,000 crore (to the exchequer). The CBI had this information.”
Justice Ganguly underscored the CAG’s importance and the irregularities it had brought to the fore. “The CAG has a very important position under the Constitution. It is an authority set up under the Constitution. If such an authority gives such a report, any reasonable person will question the minister and his secretary.”
The criticism of the CBI came during a hearing on a petition filed by an NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), which has sought monitoring of the probe either by the court or a team of officials of impeccable integrity.
Opening the arguments, CPIL’s lawyer Prashant Bhushan said the CAG report showed criminal misconduct by those involved in the 2G spectrum allocation. “The CBI should have arrested or interrogated some persons. But no critical persons have been arrested or interrogated so far.”
Bhushan cited the CAG report’s findings that the Trai Act had been flouted in the spectrum allocations, and that the advice of the finance minister and the Prime Minister to refer the matter to a group of ministers, ignored. This, he said, had caused losses to the exchequer in terms of lost spectrum fees.
Auction would have been the best way to fix spectrum prices but Raja and his officials gave it to telecom firms on a first-come first-served basis, Bhushan said. However, even that was changed later in a way that those who gave bank drafts first got the licences first.
At this point, Raja’s counsel T. Andhyarujina interjected, arguing that the minister only entered the scene after May 13, 2007.
Justice Singhvi brushed off his arguments and instead asked the CBI why no FIR had been registered against “the specific two companies (Swan and Unitech) identified in the CVC report”. “An FIR has been lodged against unknown companies and persons. But they are not unknown,” he said.
K.K. Venugopal, the CBI counsel, argued that the information so far was “too little”. But the judges asked him to file a probe status report by Tuesday.
Sleuths to question former minister – working for the interests of the Indian population at large or just for those currently in power ?!!
The Supreme Court of India - the last vestige of Impartiality in India ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY IMRAN AHMED SIDDIQUI
New Delhi, Nov. 25: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is planning to question former telecom minister A. Raja and some officials of his erstwhile department to verify information thrown up by the quiz of lobbyist Niira Radia.
“We have found some discrepancies relating to the transaction of Radia’s companies with some telecom companies. We will soon question A. Raja and some DoT officials who were close to him,” an ED official said on Thursday.
The directorate has launched an investigation to ascertain if there was any violation of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in the sale of spectrum in 2008.
The ED will also issue summons to telecom companies involved in the case. “We are preparing the list of people to be summoned,” the official added.
Officials said they had recorded the statements of representatives of two telecom companies but wanted to examine all the seven companies alleged to be involved. “The two companies submitted over 3,000 pages of documents which are being examined,” the official added.
The directorate has sought from the CBI the files and other papers the bureau had found during raids last year.
ED officials today examined the bank transaction details provided by Radia, who was questioned yesterday. “We need more documents from her to find out the mode of payment between her firms and telecom companies,” an official said.
Sonia & 80 forgo pay – not at all a long term wise move, indicating subconsciously that the ruling party is proving that ‘corruption money’ is enough – no real martyrdom on display here ?!!
Sonia Gandhi - under tremendous stress - a difficult balancing act to follow where she can kill the corruption snake and yet preserve the Congress stick ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT AND PTI
New Delhi, Nov. 26: Congress president Sonia Gandhi and around 80 other party MPs today offered to forgo their daily allowance for the period that Parliament remains paralysed.
The “no work, no pay” line is an attempt to mount moral pressure on the Opposition, which has not allowed the House to function since November 10.
Each MP gets Rs 2,000 as daily allowance for attending Parliament. One big reason the Opposition has not boycotted Parliament so far is that members would lose this allowance if they did not mark their attendance.
The Congress has 207 Lok Sabha members and 71 Rajya Sabha members.
More are expected to follow the example of the 80 who wrote to the Speaker today, saying they had no moral right to claim allowance when Parliament was not working.
Parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Bansal said the Congress president “supports and favours” their decision.
“This is, however, their individual decision. They have decided that that they will not take their daily allowance from November 10 till the end of this session on days Parliament remains disrupted. The loss to the exchequer due to disruptions in Parliament is very painful. We should follow the principle of no work, no pay,” the minister said.
Rahul Gandhi is among the MPs who wrote to Speaker Meira Kumar.
However, Congress ministers are not making the offer because they get a separate allowance that is not linked to Parliament’s functioning.
The BJP dismissed the Congress move as a “diversionary tactic”. “It is a sheer diversionary tactic by the Congress to say ‘no work, no pay’. We demand JPC and we will not relent until JPC is announced,” BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.
Cong waits for Sonia shake-up – but endemic and rampant corruption culture, that’s far too delicate a matter for the nation to digest ?!!
The Indian Congress dilemma - Congress sycophancy at its worst looking for an alternative ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY SANJAY K. JHA
New Delhi, Nov. 25: The Bihar debacle has brought into sharp focus Sonia Gandhi’s reluctance to act tough on the organisational front with many leaders pointing to the delay in constitution of the working committee as one stark example.
The AICC meeting after the completion of the organisation polls earlier this month was called with the specific purpose of electing the working committee members.
But no election took place and the party authorised Sonia to constitute the 24-member highest policy-making body. Senior leaders had said the exercise would be completed before the AICC plenary in December.
But the apprehensions among some entrenched players that they could be adversely affected in the shuffle prompted them to delay the constitution of the CWC.
Although going to the plenary with the old team will be an oddity, there are enough hints that the organisational shuffle had been put off for the new year.
This exercise, in which ministers with the dual charge of AICC general secretaries were to be replaced with full-time office-bearers, was originally supposed to be held soon after the 2009 parliamentary elections.
The delay shows how some leaders managed to preserve the status quo despite Sonia’s intentions to set the house in order. Many general secretaries who joined the government in May 2009 entreated her to be relieved of the party work but the shuffle did not happen.
General secretary Mukul Wasnik, who was given the difficult task of handling Bihar, is also a minister in the Manmohan Singh government. Prithviraj Chavan, who has been sent as Maharashtra chief minister, held several portfolios, including the demanding job of minister of state in the PMO in addition to being general secretary in charge of Jammu and Kashmir and Haryana.
Some leaders feel persisting with such arrangements for over a year either demonstrates lack of talent in the party or the high command’s apathy towards pressing issues.
The appointment of new state presidents, too, has been pending. Although some states got new chiefs recently, many have been waiting for the decision. For instance, Jharkhand Pradesh Congress Committee president Pradeep Balmuchu resigned soon after the Assembly elections last year but the ad hoc arrangement is still continuing.
In the AICC media department, no replacement was given for the most experienced spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi who was shunted after the Kerala lottery controversy. This impacted the party’s communication system so badly that cabinet minister Kapil Sibal had to be drafted in to defend the government in the 2G spectrum controversy and Sonia herself had to step in to confront the BJP on corruption.
Sources said Sonia was always hesitant in taking tough decisions. An analysis of the high command structure for the last 10 years shows most organisational shuffles have just been musical chairs, with the same faces getting different responsibilities again and again.
Her inability to create new and younger leadership has forced the party to muddle along with jaded or incapable leaders.
The fate of organisational apparatus in states has been no better.
Now the Bihar results have come as a shock and demoralised party workers throughout the country.
One leader said workers from Madhya Pradesh have been complaining to Sonia about the pathetic state of the organisation. They have warned her several times that the state was another Bihar or Uttar Pradesh in the making. But the state continues to be in the hands of Suresh Pachauri, who is eager to return to Delhi politics for a year now.
Govt puts no-PM chip on table – the warning bells or a shot over the bows ?!! a ‘no confidence’ vote next if only the opposition was more united ?!!
India's situation for the yet to be educated - simple 'True or False' questionnaire ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY SANJAY K. JHA
New Delhi, Nov. 26: The Opposition wants a joint parliamentary probe not to find out the truth about spectrum allocation but to insult the Prime Minister, the government said today, explaining with some clarity for the first time why it has been rejecting the demand so far.
“Sushma Swaraj and Gurudas Dasgupta clearly said at the all-party meeting that they wanted to summon the Prime Minister. What role has the Prime Minister in this scam? Why do they want to insult the institution of the PMO?” parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Bansal asked.
The government is neither running away from a debate nor blocking investigation, he said, but the Opposition was interested only in drawing political mileage. The Congress today got its MPs to decline their daily allowance for the period that Parliament is paralysed. ( )
Bansal further said: “They (the Opposition) wanted to look into the Niira Radia’s tapes to find out who influenced the selection of A. Raja as telecom minister. Can any committee be set up to examine cabinet formation? Has it ever happened in the world?”
Asked if the government would allow a JPC probe if these two demands were abandoned, the minister said: “We cannot respond to hypothesis. Right now, they want the JPC for these purposes, which is impossible.”
The government is planning to call another formal meeting for negotiations.
Sources said there was a view in the government that Parliament’s ethics committee or parliamentary committee could examine the Radia tapes if the members so desired.
“If the members think it is a breach of privilege that the selection of a minister was allegedly influenced by journalists or corporate houses, these committees can look into the issue. All journalists mentioned in the tapes and the corporate people can be summoned for interrogation and a report can be submitted to Parliament. The government will accept that proposal,” a senior minister said.
This is one option the government is looking at to break the Parliament impasse.
Another concession it is willing to offer is an opportunity to seek answers from the Prime Minister during a debate on the 2G scam. Although it is not mandatory for him to do so, Manmohan Singh can respond to specific queries.
Allies by side, Cong aims RSS gun at rival – on the blame game ruse yet again ?!!
Speaker Meira Kumar receives a memento sent by US President Barack Obama for Parliament on Monday. (PTI) - at a timing when India is catching up to its corruption scandals lash-backs or kick-backs ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU AND AGENCIES
New Delhi, Nov. 29: The Congress today fortified its position by getting all UPA allies to reject a joint parliamentary committee on the 2Gscam and began digging up the BJP’s scandals to weaken its posturing on corruption.
In a move to isolate the BJP from secular Opposition parties, the Congress claimed it was proceeding under instructions from the RSS and that the Left and other parties had fallen prey to their designs.
“They have the direction of the RSS…. Their demand for JPC is politically motivated,” parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Bansal said.
Another minister said other rival parties could be demanding a JPC, but they did not seem to be with the BJP in disrupting Parliament.
“The Left is also seeking a JPC but it is not joining BJP in disrupting the House. BSP members also do not join them when they go into the well…. It’s only BJP which is… not agreeing to any suggestion other than JPC,” he said.
As the Centre’s assessment that the Parliament deadlock would resolve after the Bihar polls proved wrong, the Congress decided to take the BJP head on to expose its double standards on corruption. Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari dragged in Chhattisgarh’s Raman Singh regime and the B.S. Yeddyurappa government into the row.
“Pushp Steel was set up on June 2, 2004 in Delhi and applied for prospective lease of iron-ore mines in Kanked in Chhattisgarh the same day. This company had no mining experience but was awarded licence,” Tiwari claimed.
“Delhi High Court declared that process illegal on July 20, 2010. The fake steel firm is backed by top BJP leaders. I dare chief minister Raman Singh to reveal the names behind it.”
Tiwari also alleged that a firm owned by Yeddyurappa’s son-in-law had got Rs 2.5 crore from a person allotted a 123-hectare iron-ore mine by the government, a clear case of quid pro quo. This was in addition to illegal land deals involving the chief minister’s family, he said.
The Congress also sought the BJP’s response to Arun Shourie’s claim that Venkaiah Naidu was fielded ahead of him in a Rajya Sabha debate under pressure from corporate lobbyist Niira Radia.
“In Tehelka, we saw deal-fixing. Now the BJP’s contribution to national discourse is debate-fixing,” he said.
Congress leaders said they would expose the BJP on telecom if a debate took place in Parliament. They claimed the BJP wanted a JPC to avoid a debate before the nation.
Speaker Meira Kumar has convened an all-party meet tomorrow to discuss the deadlock, but the Congress leadership’s aggressive posturing indicates there is little chance of a breakthrough.
“The sole design of the BJP and its unholy alliance with the Left is to destabilise the government… and not to stem corruption in the polity. The Centre is committed to do so,” Bansal said.
After Parliament remained deadlocked for the 12th working day, the Congress held a lunch meeting with UPA allies. All the allies, including Trinamul, DMK and the Nationalist Congress Party, backed the government’s “no JPC” position.
Trinamul, which had earlier said it was not opposed to a JPC if it was required to break the deadlock, today said the BJP and CPM were “in an unholy nexus” to destabilise the government.