UPA in damage control mode after another CAG report
Faced with embarrassment in the form of another Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on the Commonwealth Games 2010, the government on Tuesday hit back and blamed the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government for the appointment of Congress MP Suresh Kalmadi as Chairman of the CWG Organising Committee. In a damage control exercise, Minister of State for Sports and Youth Affairs Ajay Maken made a suo motu statement in the Lok Sabha on the issue. He said that the CAG report had not been officially tabled in Parliament and he was not in a position to comment on its contents.
The statement comes on the heels of media reports that despite the recommendations of the Group of Ministers, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) chose to nominate Mr. Kalmadi as chairman of the Organising Committee. However, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government maintained that the door for this was opened by the previous NDA government.
Mr. Maken blamed that government for having signed the Host City contract — bypassing the Delhi government — which led to all kinds of problems and chaos in the run-up to the Games.
Mr. Maken's speech was interrupted frequently by agitated Opposition members. The Chair asked Mr. Maken to lay the statement on the table.
Putting up a spirited defence, Mr. Maken, while speaking outside the House, said the current PMO led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had nothing to do with the appointment of Mr. Kalmadi as chairman. “There were only two options — either to scrap the CWG or to go with the Host City contract, which was signed by the NDA regime in November 2003.”
The Minister said the CWG management protocol clearly stated that the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) shall form the Organising Committee.
No other option
“When the protocol gave all powers to the IOA to form the OC, then there was no other option. Second, the Host City contract should have been signed by the City government, Delhi government in this case. It should have been passed by the city Cabinet, Delhi Cabinet in this case,” he said..
The Minister questioned the approval, by the Cabinet of the NDA government, of the contract, which was signed by the then Sports Secretary. “Once it was signed by the Union government, it was binding on the Union government which could not have gone back [on it],” Mr. Maken said.
Lashing out at the Opposition for making a hue and cry over the issue, he said members of these very political parties were part of the General Assembly of the IOA which elected Mr. Kalmadi. “All Opposition parties who are making a hue and cry now, they were part of that. They were members of the General Assembly on November 1, 2004 even before Mr. Kalmadi was appointed Chairman of OC by the Union government,” the Minister said.
“The IOA General Assembly had passed [a resolution] and recommended that Mr. Kalmadi should be appointed the OC chairman by all these people cutting across party lines. So, I think, the BJP or the NDA should first look at their own record. It was decided during their time,” he said.
“By one stroke, it took away from the Union government any residual, amending or discretionary powers that could have been exercised in emergent situations to salving any wrongdoings,” he said.
Mr. Maken charged the NDA government with failure to scrutinise and thoroughly verify the contract and said any viable alternative to the provisions was neither explored nor suggested.
The Minister maintained that by not making the Delhi government a signatory to the contract, the Union government directly stepped into providing the letter of support for the bid to host the CWG in Delhi and meet the deficit between revenue and expenditure fully without any budgetary constraint.
“The CAG report is not officially out and I do not even know what its contents are. I am sure all these things would be debated in the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).”