On a sticky wicket

The Congress has stuck to its stand that the PAC, headed by an op­po­si­tion leader, is the best author­ity to hold an in­quiry.

The Pak Banker - - 4editorial - Kuldip Na­yar

WHEN the ef­fi­cacy of the par­lia­men­tary sys­tem is doubted in a demo­cratic polity, the fin­ger may well be pointed at gov­er­nance. The rulers make a mess of things and blame the sys­tem.

This is what has been hap­pen­ing in In­dia. Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh's re­mark that he is "wor­ried over the fu­ture of the par­lia­men­tary sys­tem" in the coun­try is mis­placed and speaks more of his govern­ment's fail­ure than that of the sys­tem.

The win­ter ses­sion of par­lia­ment has been a washout and both the houses were stalled for 21 days, a record of sorts in In­dia's par­lia­men­tary his­tory. Yet the prob­lem is not the fail­ure of the sys­tem. Both the rul­ing Congress and the op­po­si­tion could not agree upon a mech­a­nism to probe into the 2G spec­trum con­cern­ing mo­bile tele­phones. (The scam runs into an ab­nor­mal fig­ure of $12bn.)

There has nat­u­rally been a coun­try­wide de­bate on cor­rup­tion. Congress pres­i­dent So­nia Gandhi's at­tack on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) does not ab­solve the Congress be­cause both par­ties are cor­rupt in the pub­lic es­ti­ma­tion.

The Congress has stuck to its stand that the Pub­lic Ac­counts Com­mit­tee (PAC), headed by an op­po­si­tion leader, is the best author­ity to hold an in­quiry. The op­po­si­tion, which in­cludes the left, has de­manded a Joint Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee (JPC) probe. The BJP was first alone but then the govern­ment's ob­du­racy led other par­ties, in­clud­ing the left, to join a com­mon front.

Prob­a­bly, it would have been bet­ter if the PAC had come to be ac­cepted be­cause JPCs in the past have not done an ef­fec­tive job. But is the in­quiry by a JPC such an im­pos­si­ble propo­si­tion that the prime min­is­ter should go to the ex­tent of ques­tion­ing the par­lia­men­tary sys­tem? The United Progress Al­liance, headed by the Congress, has a ma­jor­ity in the JPC. But it is a di­vided house now. The more the Congress op­poses the JPC, the firmer be­comes the con­vic­tion that the party wants to hide some­thing be­cause the JPC is an open-ended in­quiry.

The prime min­is­ter did not say any­thing for 21 days when the two houses did not trans­act any busi­ness. That he should now doubt the fu­ture of the par­lia­men­tary sys­tem is dis­con­cert­ing. The stand­off in par­lia­ment is noth­ing new.

In fact, Man­mo­han Singh's 'worry' amounts to a threat to the po­lit­i­cal par­ties that the par­lia­men­tary sys­tem could un­dergo change if the Congress stance is not ac­cepted. The sit­u­a­tion may worsen be­cause op­po­si­tion leader Sushma Swaraj from the BJP has said that the con­fronta­tion may spill over to the bud­get ses­sion. This should be a warn­ing for the rul­ing party that it has to ei­ther break the op­po­si­tion unity or think of reach­ing a con­sen­sus.

Oth­er­wise, the Congress must con­sider go­ing back to the peo­ple to ask for a ver­dict on its stand. A mid-term poll, when the present Lok Sabha has still an­other three years to go, is a hard choice to make. Yet there is no op­tion when both sides do not want to step back.

The prime min­is­ter should be more concerned about what Wik­iLeaks re­vealed in the as­sess­ment US am­bas­sador David C. Mul­ford con­veyed to the State Depart­ment on the 26/11 ter­ror­ist at­tack in Mum­bai. He said that a sec­tion of the Congress lead­er­ship was seen play­ing re­li­gious pol­i­tics af­ter one of its lead­ers, A.R. An­tu­lay, im­plied that Hin­dutva forces may have been in­volved in the at­tack.

The Congress's ex­pla­na­tion is that it can­not re­act un­til Mul­ford's cable is au­then­ti­cated. This is nei­ther here nor there. Un­for­tu­nately, the State Depart­ment is not will­ing to ei­ther con­firm or deny Mul­ford's com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

The sus­pi­cion gets strength­ened when Congress sec­re­tary­gen­eral Digvi­jay Singh, for­mer Mad­hya Pradesh chief min­is­ter, says a few hours be­fore Mul­ford's cable be­came pub­lic that po­lice of­fi­cer He­mant Karkare, who was killed dur­ing the 26/11 at­tack, rang him up (Singh) hours be­fore the at­tack be­gan to say that he (Karkare) had re­ceived death threats. The peo­ple threat­en­ing him, Karkare said, were those op­posed to his probe in which Hindu groups were al­legedly in­volved. The mys­tery deep­ens when the Mum­bai po­lice al­lege that no call was made to Digvi­jay Singh ac­cord­ing to its records. He, how­ever, sticks to his state­ment.

Karkare's wife has jus­ti­fi­ably crit­i­cised Digvi­jay Singh for politi­cis­ing the ter­ror­ists' at­tack. He has stuck to the line that Karkare was "ha­rassed by BJP lead­ers." It is true that the Congress has dis­tanced it­self from Digvi­jay Singh's dis­clo­sure. But that is not enough. The Man­mo­han Singh govern­ment must look into his charge which is very se­ri­ous and has wider im­pli­ca­tions.

Two years ago, Congress min­is­ter An­tu­lay had said: "They (ter­ror­ists) had no rea­son to kill Karkare. Whether he was a vic­tim of ter­ror­ism or ter­ror­ism plus some­thing, I do not know. Karkare found that there are nonMus­lims in­volved in the act of ter­ror­ism in some cases. There is more than what meets the eye."

An­tu­lay was a mem­ber of Man­mo­han Singh's cabi­net in the first term. He did not ques­tion him, nor was any ac­tion taken on his al­le­ga­tion. An­tu­lay was de­feated at the polls and hence it can­not be said that he was not in­cluded in the new min­istry be­cause of his al­le­ga­tion. Still, the charge re­mains hang­ing.

The BJP is un­der­stand­ably an­gry. It has at­tacked Digvi­jay Singh for "help­ing Pak­istan and Aj­mal Kasab". The Rashtriya Swayam­se­vak Sangh too has made some harsh re­marks against Digvi­jay Singh. Since he con­tin­ues to stick to his charge the Con­gressled govern­ment, for his cred­i­bil­ity's sake, has to en­trust the mat­ter to a Supreme Court judge.

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