A Lok Sabha discussion on Sports Minister Ajay Maken's statement regarding Commonwealth Games 2010 was marred by procedural wrangles, uproar and heated exchanges on Tuesday, finally leading to adjournment of the House for the day.
With the Left and the Bharatiya Janata Party taking the United Progressive Alliance government to task and targeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit for the CWG mess, the solitary, spirited defence from the ruling coalition came from Manish Tewari of the Congress.
Though the Comptroller and Auditor-General's report on the CWG provided the staple for the discussion, it veered round to Congress MP Suresh Kalmadi, sacked Chairman of the Organising Committee (OC), now lodged in the Tihar jail, for his alleged involvement in the CWG scam.
Drowned in din
As the House was drowned in din in the evening with BJP members storming the well to protest the police lathi charge in the capital against their youth wing members, Mr. Maken's wait for his turn to reply to the discussion proved futile and the House was adjourned.
Earlier, initiating the discussion, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Basudeb Acharia pinpointed the blame on the Prime Minister's Office and the Delhi Chief Minister, saying they could not go scot-free.
He said the National Democratic Alliance government's decision to make Mr. Kalmadi OC chairman was “not binding” on the UPA government, which could very well have changed it. The decision to make Mr. Kalmadi OC chairman was taken with the “full knowledge” of the Prime Minister, he said.
As Mr. Acharia quoted from the CAG report, Sanjay Nirupam of the Congress raised a point of order and sought a ruling from the Chair on allowing members to quote from the CAG reports. Francisco Sardinha, who was in the chair, said a special exception had been made and members were allowed to quote from the CAG report.
Referring to several projects taken up in the run-up to the CWG, including street lighting, beautification of the capital and infrastructure projects, the CPI(M) leader alleged that several irregularities were committed in such projects and wondered how the Chief Minister could not be held liable. He described the irregularities as “loot of public money” and said propriety demanded that Ms. Dikshit tender her resignation forthwith.
Mr. Acharia said the Prime Minister should own up responsibility for the irregularities, corruption, mismanagement and loot of public money.
Mr. Tewari, however, questioned the CAG's role and authority, and said the government auditor should not comment on the process of appointments and government policies.
Tewari quotes report
Quoting from The Hindu's report “BJP batted for Kalmadi,” Mr. Tewari said Mr. Kalmadi's name was proposed by BJP leader Vijay Kumar Malhotra. He gave a chronology of events, seeking to put the NDA in the dock for giving up arbitration rights to courts of England. He charged the BJP with pursuing a political agenda of trying to force the Delhi Chief Minister's resignation because their party's Chief Minister in Karnataka had to quit.
“Is the CAG report gospel truth? If it is so, then you should close down Public Accounts Committee (PAC),” Mr. Tewari said. He also made references to CAG reports on defence deals during the NDA rule, and on the BJP-ruled Uttarakhand and Gujarat as well as the Bahujan Samaj Party-ruled Uttar Pradesh in which irregularities had been alleged. “If CAG report is gospel truth, then all these Chief Ministers should resign. Should there be one set of standards for the Congress Chief Minister and another for other Chief Ministers?” Mr. Tewari said Parliament had time and again underlined that the role of the CAG pertained only to accounting duties and it should not question the decisions and policies of the government as these issues were beyond its mandate.
He sought to caution the members against giving the Supreme Court and the CAG an opportunity to raise a finger against Parliament. “If you give an opportunity, then you will have to lock this House and give keys to the court and the CAG,” he said.
Dismissing as “baseless” the Congress claims that the NDA government had appointed Mr. Kalmadi OC chairman, senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha asked: “Who is Suresh Kalmadi? Who brought him to the Lok Sabha? And now after he has landed in Tihar Jail, he is being projected as a BJP man. Who gave him ticket to contest elections?''
Accusing the Prime Minister of inaction, Mr. Sinha argued that Dr. Singh did not take any action against Mr. Kalmadi despite repeated complaints by the former Sports Ministers, Mani Shankar Aiyer and the late Sunil Dutt.
He said there was nothing that prevented the government from removing Mr. Kalmadi.