Cong members refuse to call PM as witness, BJP walks out of JPC meet
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Persisting with its demand for the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over Coal block allocation, BJP contingent Wednesday walked out of a meeting of the Joint Parliamentary Committee while seeking to open another front against him over the 2G spectrum scam.
Proceedings of the JPC reached a flash-point when Congress members mounted effort to neutralise the BJP pressure for calling Singh and Finance Minister P Chidambaram as witnesses. As the two sides got into a verbal duel, five BJP members — Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Gopinath Munde and Dharmendra Pradhan — walked out in protest against the "use of foul language by Congress members". BJP's sixth member in the JPC, Harin Pathak, was absent.
The committee comprises 30 people; the Congress accounts for 10 members.
BJP sources said the walk-out was the first step and the party planned following it up with en masse resignations, but only after JPC chairman P C Chacko (who belongs to the Congress) takes the position that he would neither send for the PM nor Chidambaram, not even PMO officials Pulok Chatterjee and T K A Nair. Chacko may put a spanner in the BJP works by settling somewhere mid-way. He may send questionnaires to them and make do with just that. While maintaining that he had not yet "decided" if he had to send questionnaires to the PM and Chidambaram, Chacko said the JPC could choose between the two options of calling people personally or seeking their response in writing. He said the committee had to pick up witnesses from amongst 107 names. Regarding the stormy scenes during the meeting, Chacko said that "it was a free-for-all", but that nobody used foul language.
Sources said trouble erupted when Sinha sought to know of Chacko what decision had he taken vis-a-vis the BJP request that the committee call the PM. Congress's Adhir Rajnjan Chowdhury retaliated by demanding that the committee summon former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. His party colleague Manish Tewari termed the BJP demand "political". Congress members accused the BJP of trying to convert the JPC into a kangaroo court.
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