Unsure of the numbers on his side,Joint Parliamentary Committee Chairman P C Chacko is reluctant to convene a meeting of the panel even as the deadline for the submission of the report is approaching fast. Unless he secures a fresh extension,Chacko has to get the draft report adopted by the committee and submit the final version to Parliament before the Budget Session ends on May 10.
This has triggered speculations that the JPC draft report may become infructuous for want of adoption by the panel. The same was the fate of the PAC draft report on the 2G spectrum scam two years ago. The PAC draft report,circulated by panel chief Murli Manohar Joshi,was rejected by 11 of the 20 members. The members who rejected it belonged to the UPA and its supporting parties. Joshi abruptly adjourned the meeting and sent the report to Speaker Meira Kumar,who returned it to him after a month-and-a-half.
While 15 of the 30 members of the JPC have already expressed their no-confidence in Chacko,the support of SP member Shailendra Kumar,who is counted on the side of the UPA,remains doubtful given the public stance of his party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav that the JPC must hear former Telecom minister A Raja.
Chacko would find it difficult to allow Raja to depose before the panel because he has already crossed the stage of recording evidence. The draft report has already been circulated among members; it is untenable for him to turn the clock back. In case the SP remains firm in its stand and goes along the 15 non-Congress members,the government would find itself in a clear 14-16 minority.
The 15 members stepped up their campaign on Wednesday by submitting separate letters to the JPC secretariat saying that they reject the draft report in toto. These 15 members are drawn from eight parties BJP,JD(U),CPM,CPI,AIADMK,DMK,BJD and TMC. They repeated what they had stated in their petitions to the Speaker that they had no-confidence in Chacko. The move marks a toughening of the stand by non-Congress parties,ruling out the possibility of any amendment of the draft report.
It comes close on the heels of a fresh confrontation building up between the Congress and BJP over the proceedings in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj had attacked Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the Speaker on Tuesday after she was disturbed by ruling party members while speaking in the House.