|The government and opposition parties will meet tomorrow to try again to break a deadlock in parliament that has stalled passage of key legislation, an official said yesterday.The opposition has halted parliament sessions since November 9 over its demand for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the alleged telecom spectrum scandal that a government auditor said could have cost the nation up to $40bn in revenue and has triggered the resignation of the telecoms minister A Raja.Meira Kumar, speaker of the powerful Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, called for an all-party meeting at 1.30pm tomorrow, an official at the speaker’s office said. “All the floor leaders will be present at the meeting,” he said.But any breakthrough in the meeting was unlikely, with the government refusing to bend to opposition pressure for a joint investigation into the alleged telecoms scam.“We are willing (to have a) discussion and (to pass) all bills listed for the session, but first and foremost the government should constitute a JPC,” said S S Ahluwalia, a senior leader of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.The meeting was originally scheduled for 4pm today, but Ahluwalia had said his party’s leaders would be out of town and were willing to consider a meeting later.Key bills, including one for approval of an extra $9.8bn in spending to ensure functioning of government machinery, are pending before the parliament.The current session is scheduled to run until December 13. But if the logjam continues, there could be an early adjournment.The government has refused to accept opposition demands, saying a separate investigation is under way.The ruling Congress Party has come up with a few proposals to overcome the impasse, including an investigation monitored by the Supreme Court, but the opposition has rejected them.Yesterday, senior Congress leader and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee spoke to BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and L K Advani in another effort to find a compromise, to no avail.“Our stand is very clear. We have said that there is no question of a JPC. But it is for the government to take a decision,” said a Congress leader who did not want to be named. Swaraj, a new entrant on micro-blogging site Twitter, wrote yesterday afternoon: “Mukherji spoke to me & Advaniji some time back and told that JPC was not possible.”The Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha said the finance minister “appealed that we give up our demand for JPC... We told Pranab Mukherjee that we could not give up demand for JPC.”The two houses of parliament had some 115 working hours scheduled in the first 11 days of the session. The opposition, which has united over the issue, and the government are blaming each other for the wasted parliament time that has also cost the national exchequer over Rs800mn.According to the PRS Legislative Research, the Lok Sabha has met for only 5.37 hours in the 11 days of the session, which is only 9% of the scheduled time.The Rajya Sabha on the other met for mere 1.14 hours, according to the PRS.Meanwhile, Advani has said the government has not been able to get back Rs70 lakh crores ($1.4tn) of Indian wealth lying stashed in foreign banks because of its “utter lack of political will” to check corruption.The senior BJP leader, in his blog, also favoured India ratifying the UN convention against corruption.Quoting the Swiss Bankers Association, Advani said Indians have “topped the list of black money depositors at the famous Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS).”Advani said the BJP’s four-member task force of economic and security experts in a recent publication estimated that Indian wealth stashed in tax havens overseas “vary from $500bn (Rs25 lakh crores) to $1.4tn (Rs70 lakh crores).”“The publication adds: The maths of the loot may be disputed, but the fact of the loot cannot be,” he said.He reminded the prime minister of his poll promise “to take action with regard to Indian wealth in foreign banks in the first 100 days of his tenure.”“More than 500 days have elapsed, and yet there has been no movement in this regard. The reason is utter lack of political will,” Advani said.He also wondered why the UN Convention against corruption had not been ratified.
“The parliament has remained dysfunctional for two weeks, but the government refuses to accept the unanimous demand of the entire opposition that a JPC probe be ordered into the stinking scandals that have recently been exposed,” he said.