New Delhi: Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was Thursday split
down the middle, with its chief Murli Manohar Joshi storming out
of a meeting after the Congress and its allies rubbished a leaked
draft report that pulled up Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his
"indirect" role in the spectrum allocation scandal.
But even as the Congress, DMK, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj
Party (BSP) rejected the report, Joshi's Bharatiya Janata Party
(BJP), the Shiv Sena, Janata Dal-United, AIADMK and Biju Janata
Dal (BJD) came out in support. At the end of the chaotic meeting,
both sides claimed victory.
Thursday's meeting of the current PAC, whose term expires
Saturday, began on a calm note but became stormy post lunch.
As the 21 MPs met, the seven members from the Congress and two of
DMK and one each from Samjawadi Party and BSP proposed a
resolution that the draft report should be put to vote.
At this, Joshi got angry, abruptly adjourned the meeting and
walked out of Parliament's Committee Room.
The Congress and its supporting members claimed that Joshi had not
adjourned the meeting, leaving the chairman's seat empty. In no
time, they staged a silent coup.
Saifuddin Soz of the Congress was asked to chair the meeting in
his capacity as the acting PAC chairman. Once that happened, a
resolution was passed rejecting the draft report, Naveen Jindal of
the Congress said, revealing details of the high drama behind
"We have rejected the biased report. We had the quorum to elect an
acting chairman and go ahead with the voting," Jindal said. Soz
and the rest of the members then submitted the resolution to Lok
Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and also to Joshi's office.
At the heart of the row was a 270-page PAC report that was leaked
to the media Wednesday, criticising Manmohan Singh for giving an
"indirect green signal" to jailed former communications minister
A. Raja to execute his "unfair and dubious designs" in selling
scarce radio waves at throwaway prices.
The Congress alleged that the leaked report had been "outsourced"
and not written by parliament staff. Joshi promised to examine the
The BJP and those on its side also claimed victory, saying Joshi
can submit the report for publication and would be doing that
The multi-party PAC, which examines government spending, is
re-elected every year.
Outside the meeting venue, Joshi refused to comment on the fate of
the draft report. "I am not saying anything," he said curtly.
He maintained that he had adjourned the session before storming
out. "How can Soz chair the session I had adjourned? Is the voting
When repeatedly asked if he would be submitting the report to the
Lok Sabha speaker, Joshi got angry, this time with journalists and
asked them to get lost.
"Will you get out or I will call the security?" he asked
BJD's Bhartruhari Mahtab cited rules and precedent to say the
chairman can submit the report without members' consent.
He said Buta Singh -- as the then PAC chairman -- had in 2003
finalised the report on the Kargil war before the minutes were
circulated to members and their consent taken.
The Congress was not impressed. It accused Joshi of trying to
"pre-empt objections to his report" and said his actions were
"unfortunate and destroyed public trust" in the panel.
"It is an extremely unfortunate action by Joshi to press for the
approval of a report which did not find acceptance of the majority
of the members," Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari told
The BJP countered that the Congress was trying to stall the PAC as
it may "touch senior people in the government" in the spectrum
"The Congress is reluctant to have a fair examination by the PAC
because any fair examination is likely to touch very senior people
in the government," BJP's Ravi Shankar Prasad charged.