Dubbing the 2-G spectrum issue as the mother of all scams, BJP President Nitin Gadkari today warned that the government's "stubborn and confrontational" approach to the "legitimate" demand for a JPC probe will cost it dearly.
"If the Prime Minister is so very confident that he is not guilty, why should he be so stubborn in opposing the legitimate demand of JPC? This stubbornness is reminiscent of the pre-emergency days. BJP condemns this approach," Gadkari said in his Presidential address at the BJP National Executive meet here, the first since the 2-G scam surfaced.
Alleging that the huge loss to the exchequer due to this "mother of all scams" is almost equal to the budget outlay of some states, he warned the government that such a "stubborn and confrontational" approach will cost the UPA "extremely dear".
"It is the stubbornness that is to blame for the logjam in Parliament. Not opposition, but the government is squarely responsible for this logjam," Gadkari said, adding that the entire opposition was united on the issue and the "sooner the government accepts our demand the better for all".
Taking a dig at Congress President Sonia Gandhi, he said, "sermons, declaration of multi-point programmes and empty appeals to political functionaries who are your own appointees will make no impact."
His reference was obviously to the five-point plan of action against corruption announced by Gandhi at the recent Congress plenary in Delhi.
Seeking to make corruption as the biggest issue, he described the UPA-II government as a "kingdom of corruption".
Gadkari told the UPA leadership that what was required was a series of credible measures starting with a firm commitment to punishing the guilty.
"The rule of law is unambiguous. With prima facie evidence in hand, the law enforcing agencies must file an FIR. They have to arrest and interrogate the suspect, collect evidence and file charge sheet within a stipulated time frame. Nobody knows why this has not happened," Gadkari wondered.
The BJP President charged that the 20-month old rule of UPA-II has allowed every arena of governance to be exploited by scamsters.
Taking a dig at the Prime Minister, he said, "while looters were emptying the government coffers, Manmohan Singh was standing guard with his eyes closed and perhaps, hands tied. These scams are some kind of a planned loot of national coffers."
Incidentally, Gadkari did not say anything on allegations of corruption levelled against the BJP government in Karnataka, whose Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa was present on the occasion.
Gadkari's comments clearly indicate that the BJP might intensify its demand for a JPC probe after Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal sought to dismiss as "utterly erroneous" the CAG report, which spoke of a presumptive loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the government due to allocation of the radiowaves.
BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad reacted sharply to the Telecom Minister's statements, saying, "Sibal's unwarranted comments have sought to over-reach parliamentary process when the PAC is looking into it."
He told reporters that "it is a frontal attack on CAG, designed to save (former Telecom Minister) A Raja."
Prasad replied in the negative to questions on whether Gadkari referred in his address to actions of Yeddyurappa, which the BJP chief had only recently dubbed as "immoral but not illegal".
The Karnataka Chief Minister, who is attending the conclave, has been accused by the opposition of making out of turn land allotments to his sons.
Interestingly, there was no reference to the 'Rashtriya Ekta Yatra' from Kolkata to Srinagar by the party's youth wing, which plans to hoist the national flag at Lal Chowk on Republic Day. It has created controversy with even NDA Convenor Sharad Yadav speaking against the idea.
With the national executive meeting for the first time after the Allahabad High Court verdict on Ayodhya title suits, Gadkari said, "we are all happy over the historic ruling on Ram Janm Bhoomi.
We have already welcomed the judgement and do hope that all sections of the society will now help make a grand Ram Mandir at Ayodhya possible."
Replying to questions, Prasad denied suggestions that Ayodhya will be an issue in the coming assembly elections in Assam, which has a sizable minority population.
"We do not relate the Ram temple issue with elections," he said, when asked whether the BJP planned to give a "walkover" to the Congress in Assam by raising the temple issue.
Significantly, during the media briefing, Prasad laughed away a query as to whether Gadkari's remark that partymen should not do any such thing that will affect the image of the party was directed at Yeddyurappa.
"Let me reiterate our resolve not to spare the guilty. Our opponents can attempt to tarnish BJP, but I am afraid, that will not help them varnish their image," Gadkari said in his address while referring to transparency and accountability in governance.
Central leaders had been hinting earlier that Yeddyurappa might have to go after the panchayat elections, but there has been no indications after the polls about a possible change of guard in Karnataka where BJP fared below its expectations.
"We in the BJP are aware of the magnitude of the issue of corruption. In order to fight with corruption what is essentially required is the strong political will to overcome this crisis," Gadkari said at one point during the address.
Gadkari asked a number of questions to the government on the JPC issue.
"Why are you shying away from JPC? What are you afraid of? From Tul Mohan Rams and Nagarwalas to Warren Andersons and Ottavio Quattrochis why all those guilty have always escaped punishment?"
The written speech of Gadkari had no mention of Congress President Sonia Gandhi or Rahul.
Asked at the briefing as to what the BJP expected Sonia Gandhi to do on the issue of corruption, Prasad said, "instead of giving sermons, she should ensure that the scam-tainted are inside jail and stop protecting those" who are being accused of corruption.
He said Raja was still free while the questioning of Congress leader Suresh Kalmadi in the Commonwealth Games case has just started.
With the executive meeting coming a day after news of reported confession of Swami Aseemanand of involvement in the Samjhauta Express blast, the BJP chief made a veiled attack on Rahul Gandhi for his reported statement expressing concern over the acts of Hindu radicals.
"Can some of the UPA leaders be so callous and irresponsible so as to deal with terrorism in a crass partisan manner and basing their facts on inconclusive investigations, even while sharing assessments with foreign diplomats?" he asked without naming Rahul.
Rahul had recently courted controversy after WikiLeaks documents claimed that he described Hindu radical groups as bigger threat than terror outfits like Lashker-e-Toiba during a conversation with US envoy Timothy Roemer.
Alleging that the UPA misses no opportunity of sending a "wrong signal" on the issue of terrorism, Gadkari said when the entire nation was expecting the government to expedite the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, the UPA has set free his associate Shaukat Guru one year before completion of his jail term.
"Within the ruling party, there are elements who hobnob with the Naxals, pamper those who see India as an encroacher in Jammu and Kashmir and try to play with the sensibilities of majority community by blowing up the threat of peripheral groups to rake up the so-called Hindu terrorism," he alleged.
He demanded that the government publish the entire data pertaining to terrorist attacks since 2004 and give details of the investigations completed, cases filed and conviction made of the guilty.