Set up JPC or step down: BJP tells Manmohan

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 24 2010, 04:23am hrs
Making Prime Minister Manmohan Singh the focal point of its attack against the UPA over corruption, the BJP on Wednesday for the first time asked him to step down from office on moral grounds if he cannot set up a JPC and answer questions regarding the 2G spectrum scandal. Virtually reviving its weak Prime Minister slogan, NDA working chairman LK Advani declared that the opposition alliance was kickstarting a campaign against the PM.

At a rally the first of the series of street protests planned by the NDA to keep the corruption issue alive till the Budget Session of Parliament the opposition alliance also pointed fingers at the clean image of the Prime Minister. Senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj made it clear that the Mr Clean PM was equally guilty if corruption happened under his nose and he remained indifferent. Senior leader Arun Jaitley gave the set up JPC or quit call.

Attacking Singh, Advani suggested the PM was not exercising his constitutional authority. Referring to the weak PM campaign waged against Singh by him during the Lok Sabha polls, he said his biggest complaint against Singh was that despite being the PM and having constitutional rights and the mandate of the people, he keeps waiting for what 10, Janpath says. The PMs post is not weak....Manmohan Singh should realise the power of the post he occupies, he said.

Days after Singh said he had nothing to hide and the Prime Minister should be above suspicion, Jaitley said the Prime Minister feels he should be beyond the realm of suspicion. The PM cannot be in the realm of suspicion. If you want to get away from the realm of suspicion, come before the JPC honestly. Set up the JPC and answer to all the questions that we have raised. If the government doesnt have answers, quit the post on moral grounds.

He said the government cannot function in an atmosphere of distrust. The PM cannot function like this. Addressing a rather unenthusiastic crowd, which thinned down as the meeting progressed, leader after leader of the NDA tore into the Prime Minister. The appointment of PJ Thomas as CVC was cited by all to attack Singh. Jaitley said the Congress has a history of covering up corruption and referred to the Bofors and Volcker scandals.

Although the BJP targetted the PM, it appeared there was lack of clarity within the party over the line of attack. While Jaitley and Swaraj questioned the PMs reluctance to set up a JPC arguing that he has many things to hide, Advani quoted a senior minister in the UPA as telling him that the PM had no objection to setting up a JPC, implying that he was overruled by some powerful quarters.

Advani said during the Parliament stalemate, the Opposition was given to understand at one point of time that the JPC demand has been accepted and the decision would be conveyed to the opposition, but mysteriously it did not happen. Advani said only the prime minister had the power to give the go ahead for a JPC probe.