New Delhi, Aug 9 : The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party today tried to tear through the Congress defence over the Commonwealth Games issue by producing confidential official letters to say that Suresh Kalmadi was appointed not by the NDA, but by the UPA government with full approval from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
In Rajya Sabha, the attack was spearheaded by Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley while in the Lok Sabha, Yashwant Sinha led the attack. Both Jaitley and Sinha read from confidential letters of former Sports Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, the then Attorney General Vahnavati's comments and Suresh Kalmadi's letter to the Prime Minister's Principal Secretary T K A Nair to say that Kalmadi was appointed with the intervention of PMO.
The BJP leaders' charges came in the light of Congress party's defence that PMO was not involved in Suresh Kalmadi's appointment. The CAG report on Commonwealth Games mess led to a slugfest in the Lok Sabha today with the Opposition alleging involvement of the PMO and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and the Congress casting doubts on the role and authority of the government auditor.
“Who is Suresh Kalmadi? Who brought him to the Lok Sabha? And now after Kalmadi has landed in Tihar Jail, he is being projected as a BJP man,” BJP member Yashwant Sinha said, ridiculing the Congress' attempts to paint the Congress member from Pune as the ‘villan' of the CWG mess.
“The PMO knew everything and yet it remained silent. Even the then MOS in PMO Prithviraj Chavan, now Maharashtra CM, had told Aiyar that there was hanky-panky in Commonwealth Games expenses”, said Sinha.
The very purpose of this debate, said Sinha, was to divert from the real issue of largescale bungling in Commonwealth Games by throwing the onus of Kalmadi's appointment on the NDA, said the BJP leader.
“Not only Kalmadi, but the entire party is guilty”, thundered Sinha. If, as you say, NDA had appointed Kalmadi, then who stopped you from removing him?, asked Sinha.
The BJP leader said that the Congress had always been targeting institutions, whether it be the CAG, or the PAC, or the Supreme Court. It was the Congress which subverted the Constitution in 1975 by imposing Emergency, he said.
In Rajya Sabha, leading the attack, Arun Jaitley read out from the same documents, to allege that the appointment of Suresh Kalmadi was vetted not only by the PMO during UPA-I but also by the UPA chairperson.
The House had to be adjourned twice as Congress members rushed to the well and objected to slogans being raised by BJP members against Sonia Gandhi. Jetley said, former Sports Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar had himself pointed out towards profligacy in CWG expenses, but was overruled.
In Lok Sabha, CPI(M) leaderBasudeb Acharia also pinpointed the blame on the PMO and Sheila Dikshit, maintaining that they cannot go scot free. Disputing the government's claim that the appointment of Kalmadi as Chairman of the CWG Organising Committee was made during the NDA rule, Acharia wondered whether there was no way out for the UPA government to change the decision.
“If there was no way out except to make Kalmadi the Chairman of the Organising Committee (OC), then how come the Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) also opined that Kalmadi be made the Chairman of the OC,” he posed.
The appointment of Kalmadi was made with the full knowledge of the Prime Minister, Acharia said questioning that if it was not binding on the government, why Kalmadi was made the Chairman.
The occasion was utilised by Manish Tewari (Cong) who opened the innings on behalf of the Congress to target the CAG questioning its right to go into the policy decisions of the government, including key appointments.
Accusing sports minister Ajay Maken of keeping facts from Parliament, Jaitley said his statement conceals more than it reveals.
”Maken's statement reveals a little but conceals much more and one of the questions which arises is why does it conceal so much information?” Jaitley asked.
“The Commonwealth Games were supposed to be a major sporting event...but it transformed into a major scam,” Jaitley said. “How much of the money was squandered away still remains a major national concern,” he added.
Jaitley said efforts were being made to conceal who was really responsible.
Maken had stated that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had appointed Suresh Kalmadi as the chief of the CWG Organising Committee. Kalmadi is currently in jail for alleged involvement in financial irregularities in CWG projects.
Giving a chronology of events, stating those were the facts concealed by the sports minister, Jaitley said while the bid for the Games was accepted in November 2003, an updated bid document appeared in the file of the Games in September 2004.
”When the bid document was accepted in November 2003, how could IOA (Indian Olympics Association) revise the bid unilaterally,” Jaitley said. Kalmadi is the IOA president, but is in jail.
Jaitley said the party took up the issue with then sports minister Vikram Verma, who said he did not remember any revision in the bid document in December 2003.
”How the revised bid appeared in the file in September 2004, he (Kalmadi) used a private route to take control,” Jaitley said, adding when a “friendly government” came in 2004, he first wrote to the prime minister to “associate him” with the Games.
Jaitley also said while in a meeting it was decided that then sports minister Sunil Dutt was to head the OC, the decision was later changed, and the minutes of the meeting were also changed.
”The entire ministry of sports and bureaucracy in the Prime Minister's office says this can't be done and it is overruled,” he said referring to the appointment of Kalmadi as the OC chief.
Jaitley, however, also added that the buck cannot stop with Kalmadi alone.
”The Prime Minister in his statement after the Games said no one will be spared, but they want to stop the buck at one man who somehow became the OC chief,” Jaitley said indicating Kalmadi, “but the buck should not stop at one person, no one should escape whether it is Delhi government or central government”.
The debate was interrupted when opposition members started shouting slogans against Congress president Sonia Gandhi, blaming her for Kalmadi's appointment.
Accusing the Prime Minister of inaction, Yashwant Sinha contended that he did not do anything against Kalmadi despite repeated complaints by former sports ministers Mani Shankar Aiyer and late Sunil Dutt.
He said there was nothing that prevented the government from sacking Kalmadi, who any way was removed from the Organising Committee of the CWG.
Responding to the remarks of the Congress that it was NDA which appointed Kalmadi as OC chief, Sinha questioned “who gave Kalmadi ticket to contest elections.”
Taking on Home Minister P Chidambaram, Sinha cited a media report which quoted Aiyer as having said that his objections to release funds to OC without utilisation certificate for the earlier amounts were overruled by the then Finance Minister.
Rejecting the contention of the government that it could not do anything to Kalmadi after he had been appointed OC chairman, Sinha said there was nothing in the contract that could have prevented the government from taking action against him.
If the government could remove him later, it could have sacked him earlier also, Sinha added.
Sinha triggered pandemonium with his remarks saying that Independent member Madhu Koda used to provide “bags” to people in Delhi as Chief Minister of Jharkhand to save his government.
The remarks evoked sharp reaction from Congress and ultimately led to adjournment of the House for 45 minutes. The Lower House was later adjourned for the day. PTI