What happened today had been foretold yesterday.
There already had been reports of a "deal" that the Congress had cut with the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC)'s to help it scuttle the report on 2G scam that indicted former Telecom Minister A. Raja — and made critical comments on the Prime Minister's "indirect green signal" and the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram and the PMO.
And that is precisely what happened today.
More importantly, the report, dictated by the PAC chairman Murli Manohar Joshi, had recommended that all 2G licences issued by Mr Raja be scrapped and a heavy penalty be imposed on the existing licensees, who benefited illegally by his decisions.
The 270-page (with annexures) draft of the PAC report was leaked within hours of the PAC's 21 members receiving it yesterday (April 27) for a final meeting to adopt it today (April 28).
In addition to the BJP chairman Mr Murli Manohar Joshi, the PAC comprised of seven representatives from the Congress, four from BJP, two each from AIADMK and DMK, and one each from Shiv Sena, BJD, JD(U), SP, BSP and CPI(M).
In unprecedented scenes at a stormy meeting of the committee, the ruling coalition MPs (7 Congress, 2 DMK) — aided, as earlier foretold, by one each from SP and BSP— "elected" Congress member Saifuddin Soz as chairman who put the resolution for rejection of the report to vote.
In the end, the 11 MPs —including one each from SP and BSP —claimed to have "democratically rejected" the PAC's draft report.
It was reminiscent of how the trust vote on the Nuke deal with the USA had been "managed".
The 'election' took place once Mr Murali Manohar Joshi had left the meeting after Soz moved a resolution seeking a vote on the adoption of the draft report.
In the "vote" that took place after the nine members belonging to opposition parties (BJP, JD(U), BJD and AIDMK) had left, 11 members rejected the report, Soz claimed.
Mr Soz later went to Mr Joshi's office and handed over the "resolution" rejecting the report to his staff. He said he would apprise the Speaker of the developments in the meeting.
Mr Joshi himself told reporters that he had adjourned the meeting because of the din created by the ruling side members who claimed that the draft report was "outsourced".
"I wanted to say something but they did not allow me. So I adjourned the meeting," he said.
Mr Joshi wanted the report to be adopted before April 30 as that is when the PAC's term was to end and constitution of the next PAC would have meant, as he explained in his cover note, examining the issues de novo.
Mr Joshi also cited Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar's ruling that the role of PAC cannot be diluted even though the JPC inquiry into the same issue is on.
Congress members in the PAC claimed that Joshi was not prepared to listen to them and "ran away". Another opposition MP said the Congress MPs demanded that Joshi resign and did not allow him to conduct the meeting.
Mr Soz' resolution, which was moved the moment the post-lunch session started, read,
"I move that the draft report on recent developments in the allocation of 2G and 3G Spectrum circulated by chairman be rejected."
In case of lack of consensus in Committee meetings, rules of procedure and conduct of business in Lok Sabha provide that all questions at any sittings of the Committee shall be determined by a majority of votes of the members present and voting.
Sources said though there were major differences between members the meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere. Joshi reportedly gave each member the opportunity to express his views.
Rules state that in case of all financial reports if the majority in the committee decides against presentation of the report to the Speaker, the Chairperson has to go by this decision.
The Congress and DMK had yesterday attacked Joshi over the report and demanded his resignation, alleging that he was trying to destabilise the government.
The following is the controversial draft of the on 2G spectrum scammet dictated by its Chairman Murli Manohar Joshi.
The DMK's Tiruchi Siva and Congress members KSS Rao, Saifuddin Soz, Naveen Jindal and K Sudhakaran have slammed this report as being Mr Joshi's and not of the PAC. They have asked for Joshi's resignation, arguing that the PAC has still not examined all aspects of the 2G scam and as such the probe cannot be wound up with the findings so far.
They argue that the probe could be carried onto the next PAC. Mr Joshi, however, is keen on pushing the report before the term of the current PAC ends on April 30, arguing that the PAC's work cannot be extended beyond its term.
But the ruling coalition members are expected to stall the report by seeking further discussion and calling more witnesses, including former Telecom Minister A Raja in a bid to prolong the process. If it comes to voting and the dissent notes are found to be in a majority, the dissenting view would be taken as the final, which is why the April 28 meeting assumes significance.
Mr Joshi also cited Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar's ruling that the role of PAC cannot be diluted even though a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) into the same issue has been constituted.
Some of the highlights:
PM & PMO
The Committee's examination reveals a " strange sequence of events" relating to the exchange of letters between Mr A. Raja, the PM, the note from the then external affairs minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee and the processing of the same in the PMO:
"The file was sent back to the Telecom Ministry with a note from private secretary to the PM that 'the PM wants this informally shared with the Department and does not want a formal communication and wants PMO to be at an arm's length.' The PM's desire to keep the PMO at an arm's length indirectly helped the Communications Minister to go ahead and execute his unfair, arbitrary and dubious designs.
"On January 3, 2008, by just acknowledging the Communications Minister's letter, the PM seemed to have given his indirect green signal to go ahead with his plans and decisions. What concerns the Committee is the fact that when the Communications Minister was in such a hurry to implement his decisions, there was no plausible reason to submit the file to the PM after 12 days."
"...The Prime Minister's statement that revenue generation has never been a primary consideration is self-contradictory in view of his own statement in India Telecom-2007 to the effect that the revenue potential to the government must not be lost sight of as government across the globe have harnessed substantial revenue while allocating spectrum."
"The Prime Minister was, in fact, misled when he was informed by the minister [A. Raja] that the issue of auction of spectrum was considered but not recommended by the Telecom Commission and also not recommended by TRAI. The minister was saying half truth, concealing the other half concealing his ulterior design."
"...the former Communications Minister deliberately misled the Prime Minister in order to fulfill his nefarious design, leading to staggering loss of revenue which also tarnished the image of the country.
On the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram
“The Committee are shocked and dismayed to note that the FM (P Chidambaram) in his note dated February 15, 2008, acknowledged that spectrum is a scarce resource and the price of spectrum should be based on its scarcity value and efficiency of usage, but made unique and condescending suggestion that the matter be treated as closed.
"The Committee view it most unfortunate since the FM, the guardian of the public exchequer and entrusted with the principal task of mobilisation of resources for public welfare, instead of initiating stringent and swift action against all those responsible for the whopping losses to the exchequer, pleaded with the PM to treat the matter as closed. The Committee cannot rest till the matter is probed in its entirety and the reasons for such an unusual act by the FM are explained to the nation."
On Mr Ratan Tata
"The Committee are surprised that a person of Tata's stature sent a personal letter to DMK patriarch when the letter had nothing to do with the framing and implementation of policies at the central level."
On Radia Tapes
"The Radia tapes reveal the tip of the iceberg and provide glimpses of the often unreported backroom deals, shady trade-offs, role of middlemen, quid pro quos between lobbyists and certain journalists, insatiable greed for wealth, etc."
Full text of the report follows.