The United Progressive Alliance government and the Congress on Monday vigorously defended the Prime Minister's Office and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit against accusations made by the Opposition, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, that they had been indicted by the Comptroller and Auditor-General.
Nowhere in the CAG's report on the Commonwealth Games had the PMO or Ms. Dikshit been found guilty of any wrongdoing, said the government and the Congress.
On a day the Opposition used the CAG report to force an adjournment of both Houses of Parliament without allowing them to conduct any business, the Congress' response at two separate press conferences was sharp and pointed, as it asked people to read the report carefully.
‘CAG exceeded brief'
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari even went so far as to question the bona fides of the CAG. Pointing out that the CAG was “only an auditing body,” he said it had no “remit to comment on an appointment process” or “on policy choices that a government may or may not make.” When the CAG commented on the appointment process in the context of the Games, “it erred.”
Mr. Tewari wanted to know why three crucial dates had escaped the CAG's attention: September 11, 2003, when the Host City contract for the CWG was approved by the National Democratic Alliance Cabinet; November 13, 2003, when the Host City contract was signed; and November 1, 2004, when the India Olympic Association general assembly — “which consisted of many eminences of the NDA” — decided to elect Suresh Kalmadi chairperson of Organising Committee.
Questioning the CAG's intentions, he said: “Were these omissions intentional or was it a case of oversight, given that two of [these] took place during the NDA's time?”
The PMO under the UPA regime had “no role” in the appointment of Mr. Kalmadi as it was a “fait accompli,” because of documents signed by the NDA government. “If there is any alleged financial loss, then the Public Accounts Committee needs to look into that,” Mr. Tewari added.
Meanwhile, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal told journalists shortly after the Group of Ministers on the media met that there was no indictment of the PMO in the CAG report: “There is only a reference [to the PMO] ... and a statement of facts.”
Law Minister Salman Khurshid and Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni were present at the press conference.
Media restraint urged
Advising the media to exercise self-regulation and check facts, Mr. Sibal pointed out that media organisations were reporting that the PMO and Ms. Dikshit had been indicted by the CAG report, even though that was not true. “There may be a reference to different people but a reference does not mean indictment,” Ms. Soni added, stressing, “there is no indictment of any high office, much less that of the PMO.”
Mr. Sibal, however, parried questions whether he could say categorically that there was absolutely no criticism of Ms. Dikshit in the CAG report. “You should let us know if there is any particular passage which you find as indictment [of Dikshit].”
Mr. Tewari, however, was more direct saying that there was “not even a whisper of an insinuation” against Ms. Dikshit