Come 2019, elections are looming close and the power play has been underway for a while. The fight takes another turn with Rahul Gandhi aiming to bring down Narendra Modi with the demand for a joint parliamentary inquiry to look into the Rafale fighter aircraft deal. The Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) would aim towards obtaining oral or written evidence from various sources on the Rafale deal.
Last week, the government rejected the demand in the Lok Sabha for a JPC to probe the alleged scam in Rafale jet deal. Rahul Gandhi and Arun Jaitley clashed over the Rafale deal; the finance minister said that there is no point in accepting demand for a JPC by a party which itself is embroiled in the Bofors corruption case. He further added that Congress felt that since "its hands are already soaked in corruption", it has decided to 'manufacture' a lie to defame the Modi government ahead of the 2019 elections.
Agusta Vs. Rafale
Issues like unemployment, inflation, farmer suicides, demonetization and Ram temple have taken a backseat with Congress and BJP engaged in Agusta vs. Rafale battle. Discussion over helicopters and silence on combat aircrafts have both been eminent in the political pyramid. The BJP has slammed the congress over the alleged 3600 - crore Agusta Westland VVIP chopper scam, and now the Congress has found an opportunity to level an argument in the Rs. 56000-crore Rafale jet.
Opposition parties demand JPCs to uncover the "truth", which seems to rarely happen. On the contrary, JPCs becomes an arena to settle political scores. Rafale controversy threatens to bombard democratic debate and discussions involving sensitive national issues over the security and defense of the nation.
The Bofors scandal got the first JPC formed in 1987 tarnishing the then ruling party, Congress, about a weapons contract between India and Sweden. In 1992, a JPC was set to probe irregularities in securities and banking transaction in the aftermath of the Harshad Mehta scandal. Another JPC was formed in 2001 to investigate the case of Ketan Parekh a former stockbroker who was involved in the Indian stock market manipulation scam that occurred between 1998 to 2001. The fourth JPC was constituted in 2003 to look into pesticide residues in soft drinks, juices and other beverages and to set safety standards. In the 2G case, a fifth JPC was set up in 2011, to investigate the alleged undercharging by the union government to mobile telephones companies for frequency allocation licenses, which was then being used to create 2G spectrum subscriptions for cell phones. Sixth JPC is the revoked Agusta scam inquiring about payment of bribes in the acquisition of VVIP helicopters by the Ministry of Defense from M/s Agusta Westland. Seventh JPC is looking over The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill.
Status quo – a handiness of politics
In our democracy today the JPCs are part of the legerdemain of politics to negotiate a ceasefire or to sweep scandals under the carpet without a fruitful outcome. And defense deals have turned into political missiles for the BJP and Congress parties.