New Delhi, July 30 : Bringing Prime Minister under the Lokpal would result in “institutionalised permanent instability” at the Centre, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Saturday.
Two days after the Union Cabinet approved the Lokpal Bill that keeps the Prime Minister out of its ambit much to the anger of the civil society, Mukherjee, who chaired the joint drafting committee with Anna Hazare's team, strongly defended the decision.
“In this time of frenzy, anybody can write to the Lokpal and make a complaint. If the Lokpal prima facie sees merit in it...the Prime Minister will have to resign. Prime Minister is the keystone in our system and if he goes, then the entire government goes. This way you will institutionalise permanent instability,” he told PTI.
He recalled that BJP had wanted a fixed tenure for the Lok Sabha without mid-term dissolution in the wake of three general elections in three years between 1996 and 1999.
On Anna Hazare's threat to go on an indefinite fast from August 16, Mukherjee said if the Gandhian felt that the civil society bill was the best then he should convince political parties supporting him to get it passed in Parliament even without discussion.
Mukherjee today rejected suggestions that he had anything to do with the pricing of 2G spectrum and hit out at those spreading “disinformation” on the issue.
In 2007 when he was External Affairs Minister, Mukherjee had been appointed Chairman of a Group of Ministers (GoM) on vacation of 3G spectrum which, he said, had nothing to do with 2G and its pricing.
The GoM was for vacation of spectrum by the defence and para-military forces and the communication ministry for mobile telephony and other issues. Pricing was not part of the mandate of the GoM, he said.
“In a nutshell, I had nothing to do with 2G,” he said. Mukherjee deprecated attempts to spread “a lot of disinformation” on 2G targeting ministers.
The job of the GoM headed by him was on vacation of the spectrum and “how can you bring pricing and other things (of 2G spectrum) here”, Mukherjee said.
“So far as pricing and other things concerned, it was not not part of the mandate of the GoM,” he emphasised.
The terms of reference of the GoM was changed at the insistence of the nodal ministry and how could anyone conclude there was manipulation of pricing, he said with reference to reports that he had been aware of such manipulation.
In November, 2007 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had asked Mukherjee to apprise himself of the issues raised by the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) and GSM operators challenging the criteria for allocation of additional GSM spectrum.
The issues had been raised with the then Telecom Minister A Raja and the then Solicitor General G E Vahanvati in the context of proceedings pending in the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).
Mukherjee said in this context he held a meeting with Raja and Vahanvati in the first week of December, 2007. Vahanvati had explained that the existing operators were insisting on allocation of additional GSM spectrum on the basis of March 2006 guidelines which they contended were adequate.
There was no no substance in this contention in view of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended revised criteria which were stricter.
Vahanvati had explained to him that as per the directions of the TDSAT, an affidavit had been filed in November 2007 indicating the way forward. PTI