BJP Does a Congress, Says PM Cannot be Called by Panel

Business Standard, January 13, 2017

After insisting then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should be summoned for sittings of the 2G spectrum case by Parliamentary panels, BJP appears to be doing a volte face now as it gave reasons in the Public Accounts Committee meeting on Friday to emphasise why Narendra Modi cannot be asked to depose in the demonetisation issue being examined by the body.

During the PAC meeting here on Friday, BJP MPs Bhupendra Yadav and Nishikant Dubey made the point that panel chairperson KV Thomas has made statements in the press about the possibility of PM Modi being asked to present himself during discussions on the effect of the demonetisation move. They cited rules to argue that the panel is not authorised to call the Prime Minister or any union minister. The panel later issued a statement which was in agreement with this view.

“The committee are of the view that …. Direction 99 of Directions by the (Lok Sabha) Speaker may be referred to wherein it states that though officials may be called to give evidence in connection with the examination of the estimates and accounts relating to a particular ministry, ministers shall not be called before the committee either to give evidence or consultation…,” the press statement issued by PAC said.

The statement further said that if considered necessary, then the PAC chairperson “may have an informal interaction with the minister” after the panel’s deliberations have been concluded.

Sources said Yadav and Dubey emphasised that the panel is discussing “monetary policy” and not demonetisation alone.

“They also informed the PAC that only then Agriculture Minister C Subramaniam was called by the panel in 1966. From Independence till 1966, PAC was chaired by a Congress leader and the same party was in power till then. Minoo Masani was the first non-Congress chairman of PAC in 1967 and since then no minister or PM has been summoned by the panel,” a senior BJP leader said.

When the PAC headed by Murli Manohar Joshi was examining the 2G Spectrum scam during UPA rule, BJP had demanded that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh be called to depose in front of the panel. Joshi himself had consulted the then Lok Sabha Speaker on the issue but later decided not to call the PM though Singh had expressed his willingness to appear before committee. The matter had also been raised vociferously in the Joint Parliamentary Committee formed to look into the issue but Singh was not summoned.

The tables have turned now with BJP taking the stand that the Congress had taken during UPA rule. BJP members are firm that Modi cannot be called before the PAC on the demonetisation issue.

Some members in the present PAC headed by Thomas have allegedly been kept in the dark about some steps taken by the panel. A member, preferring anonymity, said the panel came to know about the questionnaire sent to RBI governor only through the press.

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