By Diksha Sahni
The latest move in the political chess game that we have witnessed for the past few weeks between Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party was played deftly Wednesday evening by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, when he offered to convene a special session of Parliament to discuss BJP and other opposition demands for the formation of a joint parliamentary committee to probe the 2G telecoms scandal.
After BJP’s protest rally, Congress offered to hold a special session of Parliament to discuss the opposition’s demand for a Parliamentary inquiry.
In case you’ve been asleep for a month, the scandal revolves around the government’s 2008 allotment of second-generation wireless spectrum at what the Comptroller Auditor General found to be deeply discounted prices, depriving the government of as much as $40 billion in lost potential revenue. The issue has become a political dream for the BJP, which was struggling to find its raison d’etre in the wake of a stinging defeat in the national elections in 2009.
But it used the scandal, and other embarrassments for the government, to disrupt the entire winter session of Parliament â€“ and it has vowed to continue protesting until a JPC is formed. Even after Congress leaders spoke vehemently on the party’s commitment to fight corruption, the BJP organized a massive rally in New Delhi to protest against what it sees as the taint of corruption surrounding the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance.
Not wanting the BJP to cause a similar logjam in the budget session of Parliament in February, Congress has made a clever move, analysts said. Speaking at an awards ceremony, Mr. Mukherjee said, â€œI am ready to call a special session of Parliament before the budget session so that this issue is debated.â€
In doing so, Congress has not conceded to the BJP’s demands but has put the next move on the BJP, which now has to make a choice whether to accept a debate or to risk being seen as a spoiler not willing to use the nation’s chief debating forum to pursue its cause.
Columnist B.G Verghese said: â€œThis move on the part of Pranab Mukherjee signifies that the Congress is making a further effort to solve this problem without conceding to the demands of the opposition. What it means is largely that the Congress is giving a chance to the parliament to decide the matter that whether or not there is any logic in the demands of JPC. I think it is a fair offer. It is now on the BJP to decide if they accept this or not.â€
If the BJP accepts, it will also be incumbent upon it to behave, giving Congress a chance to put forward its proposed solution to the parliamentary impasse. â€œI think it is a very innovative initiative. So far there has not been a real discussion, so this move is seen as an effort at resolving the deadlock,â€ said Chintamani Mahapatra, professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.
But how far such a session would be able to get at the roots of the issue is a big question. At this stage, all this looks more like a drama aimed chiefly at gaining advantage. After all, these are politicians doing what they do best: politics.
â€œI am not sure if this special session will give us any answers. We might see scenes similar to what we have seen before in the winter session of parliament. Such issues cannot be resolved in the parliament,â€ said Sudha Pai, professor at theÂ Â JNU’sÂ Centre of Political Studies. â€œIt is merely a politicisation of issue of corruption on part of BJP.â€
Now, the next move is with the BJP and how it will respond to Mr. Mukherjee’s offer. A BJP spokesman couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. But reports suggest that the Opposition has rejected Mr. Mukherjee’s offer.