It won’t be long before the UPA’s complete dependence on the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party gets exposed. On 25 April, when the JPC meets to adopt the draft 2G report of chairman PC Chacko and votes for its approval, it vulnerability on the numbers front will come to the fore.
The report gives a clean chit to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister P Chidambaram in the alleged scam and puts all blame on former Telecom Minister A Raja. Besides, it rubbishes CAG’s presumptive loss figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crore and blames the then NDA Government for causing substantive loss because of a policy shift in 1999.
The content of the draft report has left the opposition parties fuming. All of them, from the BJP to the Left, have called Chako’s report a “cover up… propaganda material for the Congress”. But that does not worry the latter – it has been accused of brazenness in the committee meetings and Chacko has been heavily criticized for declining A Raja’s repeated requests to appear before the JPC as witness. It’s used to that.
Now that Chacko has prepared a favourable draft report for the Congress, the next big challenge for the party would be to get it cleared on 25 April. This is where the problem kicks in. Take a look at the composition of the new JPC. Out of a total strength of 30 in the committee, the Congress has 11 members, the BJP has five, the Janata Dal (U), the DMK, the BSP and the four Left parties combined will have two members each, the Samajwadi Party, the Trinamool Congress, the AIADMK, the Shiv Sena, the BJD and the NCP have one member each.
Originally, the UPA had a clear majority in the JPC with 18 members, including three from its outside supporters, the SP and BSP. The exit of Trinamool Congress and the DMK from the UPA has changed the scenario. All three members, one from the Trinamool and two from DMK, will not vote for the draft report. In the current scenario, the numbers are not very favourable to the Congress. The Congress and the NCP together count for 12, but if two of the BSP and one of the SP is added the count goes up to 15. This equals the number of the opposition, which now includes the TMC and the DMK.
If either of the two, the SP or the BSP, decides to vote against the Congress sponsored line, the report is doomed. It will be a major embarrassment to the ruling party. Though it has no direct bearing on functioning of the government of the day, it will raise the political temperature, as also fresh speculations on the longevity of the minority government. The Congress’s back room boys will have a lot of work to do in pursuing them to be on its side.
It was exactly two year ago, in April 2011, that the Congress, armed with the support of the SP and the BSP, had a field day against Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Murli Manohan Joshi, rejecting his 2G draft report that indicted former A Raja and made critical comments on the prime minister’s “indirect green signal” and on the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram and the PMO. Joshi had also recommended that all 2G licences issued by Raja be scrapped and a heavy penalty be imposed on the existing licensees, who benefited illegally by his decisions.
The PAC had 21 members. Besides chairman Joshi, the PAC comprised seven representatives from the Congress, four from the BJP, two each from the AIADMK and the DMK, and one each from the Shiv Sena, the BJD, the JD(U), the SP, the BSP and the CPM. Amid unprecedented scenes at a stormy meeting of the committee, the ruling coalition MPs “elected” Congress member Saifuddin Soz as chairman, who put the resolution for rejection of Joshi’s report to vote. In the end, the 11 MPs claimed to have “democratically rejected” the PAC’s draft report.
The opposition BJP may take a cue and do in JPC a repeat of what the Congress did in PAC. But much would depend which way the SP and the BSP tilt. It is difficult to say now what happens in case of a tie, 15 each on either side.