‘No question of party not agreeing with him'
The Congress response to Union Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal's trashing of the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG)'s Report on the 2G spectrum scam was a carefully calibrated defence. Asked whether the Congress agreed with him, top party sources told The Hindu, “There is no question of the party not agreeing with what Mr. Sibal said — he has all the facts, and is, therefore, speaking with full accountability. Mr. Sibal must have sought the consent of the Prime Minister, and, so, there is no question of the party disassociating itself with his statement.”
Earlier in the day, however, the party was somewhat ambivalent, especially as journalists persisted in asking whether Mr. Sibal's attack on the CAG did not undermine a constitutional body. “The papers are with Mr. Sibal and with Murli Manohar Joshi and the Public Accounts Committee (which is scrutinising the CAG Report),” party spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed said, adding, “Both can comment on the issue. How can we in the party comment on its merits and demerits?”
Asked whether the party was distancing itself from Mr. Sibal's comments, he said, “There is no question of distancing or backing (him). He has the papers – he can comment on it. Besides, the CAG Report is meant to be scrutinised. Any MP or Minister can raise a question mark on the CAG report.” Asked whether Mr. Sibal had undermined a constitutional authority, Mr Ahmed said, “I don't think so. If he says something, he is the competent authority to do so.”
On whether the government was letting the former Union Telecom Minister, A. Raja, off the hook, Mr. Ahmed said, “Not at all. The procedural lapses will be dealt with.” Later, a senior party functionary stressed, “We are not defending Mr. Raja. We are just saying let the enquiries take place first.”
Mr. Ahmed also refused to comment on Dr. Joshi criticising Mr. Sibal for trashing the CAG report, saying, “The documents are either with Mr. Sibal or with Dr. Joshi. The party does not have any document. The party cannot say anything as the party has nothing to do with it. How can the party say what is factually correct and what is not?”