Moving from 2G to KG, Public Accounts Committee Chairman and veteran Bharatiya Janata Party leader Murli Manohar Joshi on Friday launched a full-spectrum attack on the UPA government and specifically on Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram.
He demanded that Mr. Chidambaram be removed from the Cabinet for his alleged role not only in the 2G spectrum allocation case but also in the “latest” scandal related to gas in which the CAG has alleged that undue favours were shown to Reliance Industries Limited in its Krishna Godavari basin gas operations.
Dr. Joshi cited the draft report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General to demand that the government hold an inquiry into the “unprecedented leak,” adding that the leak could not have been made from the CAG office, and that the Petroleum Ministry must be guilty. It was a “matter of privilege,” he said but did not clarify whether he intended to take it up as a privilege issue.
Since the issue was now in the “public domain,” the PAC would be free to take up the matter even before the CAG completed its report and submitted it to Parliament, he said. “Any member of the PAC can raise the issue at the next meeting,” which would be held later this month.
Dr. Joshi said the Ministry needed to tell the people how long it intended to take before responding to the CAG's draft report. “Why is this delay?”
He wondered why Mr. Chidambaram, who was Finance Minister at the time and a member of the Group of Ministers, had agreed to allow private gas companies to increase the price of gas to $4.20 per British thermal unit against the earlier ONGC selling price of $1.80. The decision to raise the price had benefited the private companies and led to a huge loss to the exchequer.
What was the “formula” for determining the price of petroleum products, he asked. Mr. Chidambaram had not protected government revenues, he had “bungled” the list of the most wanted men sent to Pakistan and “now there was also a question mark on his election to the Lok Sabha.” “I demand that he be removed from the Cabinet,” Dr. Joshi said.
Sources in the BJP suggest that Mr. Chidambaram is being targeted because of Hindutva terror cases against some RSS ‘pracharaks.' Some senior leaders have been trying to assuage RSS fears by telling them they are speaking to Mr. Chidambaram to “sort out the issue.” But the fear is that nothing concrete has happened to let the RSS completely off the hook on these cases.
Dr. Joshi did not spare Manmohan Singh either, saying “as always, the Prime Minister keeps all such issues at arm's length.” He dismissed questions on the propriety of his using the BJP office to address issues related to the PAC's work.