Monkey off its back

Written by Nistula Hebbar | Nistula Hebbar | Updated: Feb 25 2011, 04:08am hrs
For weeks everyone knew that the government had decided to concede to the Oppositions demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the 2G spectrum scam, and yet, like threatened witnesses in a gang war, government managers kept playing coy.

At the all party meeting convened by the Speaker on the issue on Sunday, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had gone as far as asking all leaders to take an oath of silence as far as the press was concerned. But since oaths are but words and words but wind, the kite flying continued uninterrupted.

Once it was clear that the committee would be set up, talk veered to who would head it. It is a peculiarity of the Congress that whoevers name is mentioned first in connection with a particular appointment gets jinxed. The party seems to have a particular fondness for the dark horse candidate.

The eagerness for the chairmans seat or, in fact, a membership of this JPC was only in evidence until it was announced. Congressmen were told that membership of the committee would, in some way, preclude their being part of the next big Cabinet reshuffle promised by the PM after the Budget session. The speed with which candidates for the JPC disappeared reminded one of a Marx Brothers film.

The Opposition has another problem. The party that spearheaded the campaign against A Raja and the 2G Scam, the AIADMK, now finds itself out of the JPC. With 9 MPs, it is hardly in a position to demand space.

While the government should be happy that the monkey on its back is now squarely the Oppositions problem, a piece of news, relayed through its ally, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), has brought the frowns back. Former telecom minister A Raja, it seems, wants to make one last stand in Parliament and defend himself on any wrongdoing. Speaker Meira Kumar denied that any letter had reached her as of now but the government is monitoring all fax machines very closely.

It is round one for the Opposition, at least for now. But in the see-saw game of occupying the Parliamentary moral high ground, the last word is never spoken.