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Reworked PAC report on 2G sparks row, Montek defends PM

By The Assam Tribune

New Delhi, Aug 7 (IANS): The ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) appears set to reject a reworked report by Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman Murli Manohar Joshi questioning the role of the Prime Minister in the 2G spectrum allocation.

Meanwhile, Planning Commission Deputy Chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia has defended Manmohan Singh on the issue, and asserted that the Cabinet can't be micro-managed by the Prime Minister.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Joshi had circulated the reworked report among PAC members on Saturday. It is understood to question the role of Manmohan Singh and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram in the allocation of 2G spectrum, which allegedly resulted in the loss of crores of rupees to the national exchequer.

The report is set to provide more ammunition to a combative Opposition determined to pin down the government over corruption.

It was circulated a day after the Comptroller and Auditor General blamed the Prime Minister's Office and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit's government for appointing Suresh Kalmadi to oversee the 2010 Commonwealth Games and for irregularities in the event,

The UPA members of the PAC on Sunday reacted sharply to the report and indicated their intention to reject it. They demanded the removal of Joshi from the post of the chairman and accused him of being "interested in politics".

Congress MP and PAC member Sanjay Nirupam rubbished the reworked report, saying it "deserves to be thrown into the dustbin". Nirupam asked why the opinion of constitutional experts was not included in the report.

In a forwarding letter to PAC members on Saturday, Joshi stirred a fresh row saying he was sending them the draft report again after consulting constitutional experts and "past precedents".

Joshi was reappointed chairman of the PAC in May after the term of the previous PAC ended April 30.

On June 28, Joshi tried to place the report before the new PAC, but he did not succeed due to fierce opposition from UPA members. Speaker Meira Kumar returned the report on grounds it was not supported by the entire PAC.

Last time round, Joshi's report on the 2G scam was rejected by the UPA members in the PAC. This time, the change in the composition of the panel will make it difficult for them to do so.

In the committee, nine members support the report, but nine are against it. Three members of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) are neither supporting nor opposing it and one seat is vacant.

The reworked report is said to comprise 575 pages, with 276 pages of documents the PAC had received from government on 2G spectrum allocation.

Meanwhile, in an interview to a news channel, Ahluwalia defended Manmohan Singh on the 2G issue.

"The Prime Minister is not micro-managing every decision. So while I think 2G clearly became a problem, I don't think it became a problem because it was mishandled at the Prime Minister's Office level," Ahluwalia told Karan Thapar's Devil's Advocate programme on CNN-IBN.

Ahluwalia also contended that former Communications Minister A Raja's assertion that the Prime Minister had erred by not setting up a ministerial panel to oversee spectrum decisions was without basis. "I think those who say that have a mistaken notion on how a cabinet works," said Ahluwalia, when asked to respond to a growing feeling that the prime minister was less than vigilant in handling the issue.

"Now you cannot set up a GoM (group of ministers) to look at something which has been decided at a Cabinet level. I think if anybody felt the previous Cabinet decisions needed to be reversed, they should have taken the matter to Cabinet," he added.

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