Why UPA fears a JPC: Nos will make it minority in the panel

Behind the Congress's adamant stand against forming a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe the 2G spectrum scam is the destabilising reality of numbers in Parliament.

It's learnt that Congress troubleshooters carried out an internal exercise last week only to realise that the ruling combine will effectively be in a minority in any JPC.

Even though a JPC is constituted on the basis of proportional representation depending on each party's strength in Parliament, the UPA found itself in a rather peculiar situation. On their own, the Congress and its UPA allies represented in the government account for 259 seats in Lok Sabha and 91 in Rajya Sabha. Their majority in Lok Sabha is made up by parties extending outside support like the SP, BSP and RJD.

Back of the envelope calculations the government did so in a bid to get Parliament to function showed that in a 30-member JPC, the Congress along with UPA constituents in the government would get only 14 members. This would mean representatives of parties like SP and BSP could become key players. The BSP's stunning silence on the issue and SP's participation in thronging the well of the House made the Congress a touch nervous.

A JPC without assured majority control, sources said, raised all sorts of concerns like whether the PM and other senior ministers would be embarrassed through repeated questioning. Even though the chair would belong to the UPA, there could be constant political pressure and the Committee itself could turn into a "political weapon" against the Treasury.

When it comes to forming a JPC, the convention is that members are drawn from both Houses in a 2:1 ratio favouring the Lok Sabha. Since it is based on proportional representation, the ruling combine should have a majority. But in this case, the UPA relies on outside support to make up the last fraction of its majority and that is where the complication is.

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