Veteran politician Murli Manohar Joshi, of the BJP, talks to Panini Anand about the CAG report on the coal scam and the role of the public accounts committee (PAC) of Parliament, which he heads. Excerpts:
Do you think your party, the BJP, did not show faith in the PAC you head by disrupting Parliament throughout the monsoon session?
The PAC is an important committee of Parliament. The disruption happened because the PM and his party started questioning the CAG report—even suggesting that the CAG had malafide intentions, even before the PAC could get the CAG report and respond to it. The government should have appealed to the Opposition to set the matter before the PAC and wait for its response. Ideally, the government and the Opposition should have faith in the CAG, the PAC and Parliament. Today, it seems neither the government nor the Opposition has faith in the functioning of Parliament.
Don’t you think the logjam has damaged the BJP’s image?
In a sense, I’d like to agree with that. But I think it’s because of an unfortunate lack of understanding—even among the MPs—about the role of the PAC.
The Centre and some state governments led by your party have criticised the CAG. What about the accountability of CAG?
If you have a problem, you must have a discussion. You can say the CAG should be selected thus, it should be a multi-body CAG—but please come with proposals at least. Why are you demoralising a constitutional institution? Right now, I don’t want to pass judgement on the CAG report—I’ll do that only after the PAC completes its work on it. If you think the CAG is guilty, impeach him, but don’t harm a democratic institution.
So you have full faith in the CAG?
Why not? In the last three years and more, I have seen many cases in the PAC and I’ve found the CAG fair enough. If you think an individual is doing wrong, impeach him. But a very damaging game has been played—that of defaming democratic and constitutional institutions.
Some people have asked why the BJP didn’t raise objections when the allocations were being made.
This was because the government said the coal-block allocations were meant to generate power, to boost industry. But let me ask, who asked you not to follow proper procedure during allocations?
Your view on auctioning of natural resources?
The basic principle is that natural resources are the property of the nation. They must not be monopolised by this group or that. Imagine a situation in which one group controls natural resources, another the communications sector and so on. See how many crores of rupees such groups pay political parties. In the 2G case, we have seen how one group wanted X as telecom minister and another wanted Y. Is this a democracy? I would call it a ‘corporate-o-cracy’.
Your party MPs threatened to resign during the session. Was that the right approach?
I don’t know where that came from. Quite certainly, resigning or not resigning is not the main issue. How does it improve the situation?