Before he headed into Parliament for the Monsoon Session that starts today, the Prime Minister said he hopes “this session will be constructive and productive.”
The Opposition has already made it clear that it will target the PM and UPA President Sonia Gandhi on a series of issues ranging from corruption within the government to price rise. “It is our sincere desire that this session should run smoothly and Parliament should discuss all issues of national importance and the government is quite prepared for any subject which the Opposition would like to be taken up,” Mr Singh told reporters outside Parliament.
The Opposition is ready with its list, topped by the 2G telecom scam, described as India’s largest-ever swindle. It was constructed in 2008, when companies were given mobile network licenses and spectrum at throwaway prices, allegedly by then Telecom Minister A Raja, who is from the DMK, a major partner in the UPA coalition at the Centre. The scam is being investigated by the CBI and is being closely monitored by the Supreme Court. “The matters in court are best left for court to decide,” said the PM this morning.
Last evening, his office issued a clarification about a note in a government file that it believes is being misrepresented to suggest that the PM ignored the scam as it was brewing in the Telecom Ministry in 2008. A Raja of the DMK headed the ministry then; he is now in Tihar Jail. A note said that Dr Singh had asked for the Prime Minister’s Office to be kept “at arm’s length.” Yesterday’s clarification said that this comment was made in the context of Dr Singh wanting the departments concerned – like the regulatory body for telecom policy – to consider how much spectrum to allocate to new players. The note from Dr Singh’s office to the Department of Telecom (DoT) was meant to indicate his “informal suggestions,” said last evening’s press release.
That’s unlikely to carry much weight with the BJP, which will also clash with the government over whether a new anti-corruption law should cover the Prime Minister. The draft of the new Lokpal Bill says the PM is exempt while in office; charges of corruption can be investigated after the PM’s term is completed. The BJP said last week that it was not in favour of this.
“I appeal to all segments of Parliament. My appeal to the Opposition is to unite on this occasion to tackle jointly and collectively major problems that our nation is faced with,” Dr Singh said.
But the Parliament session is likely to turn into a major battleground. Yesterday, the PM said that the Opposition has “too many skeletons in its cupboard”, a remark that provoked Sushma Swaraj of the BJP to retaliate with, “Let the Prime Minister use all his fire power. Let the session start and we will see who has what to say.”