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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Debate can wait

BJP is duty-bound to raise questions not just to seek answers but to demand action

Written by Nirmala Sitharaman |
August 25, 2012 3:49:42 am

An unending stream of scandals,the steady flow of CAG reports on loss-making decisions of the government,a government that first denies any wrongdoing,then delays answering,thinking that accountability is no virtue — are the high marks of the UPA regime.

The latest political crisis in the wake of the CAG report is following the same route the government has adopted in handling all the earlier big-ticket corruption allegations. Whether it was CWG or 2G spectrum,or even the ISRO-Devas and Aircel-Maxis controversies,there is a similar pattern. The government first denies any wrongdoing. Then they move to a phase where they delay answering the questions raised by the opposition,as though hoping that the problem will vanish.

Meanwhile,they tarnish the image of constitutionally endowed bodies such as the CAG. They even question their very raison d’etre. This again is typical of the way the Congress tries to influence institutions,sometimes misusing them to harass political opponents in order to suppress and silence them when they dare to question the government they run. Even worse,misusing the same institutions,they wrench support from the small/ regional parties in the form of votes on the floor of the House.

A few months ago,when a leaked report of the CAG on coal allocation found its way into the public domain,the government refused to discuss it. Subsequently,even as the Parliament session was on,in May,the CAG submitted its report on coal to the government. The government did not table it even on the last day of the session. Now that it is submitted,it frames the fact that during the period when the prime minister was holding the coal portfolio,a hurried allocation of 142 coal blocks was made. And this,when the policy was being reformulated to bring in a competitive bidding procedure.

In fact,the first objection against competitive bidding came from the PMO itself. Later,the law ministry came up with one advice first and,a few months later,with another very different advice. With all this still being worked out,there was a rush to allocate to private operators. Interestingly,some of them who do not even have any core competency in coal extraction,such as gutka manufactures,have been given the allocation. The amount indicated by the CAG,of Rs 1,86,000 crore is clearly a windfall gain to the private operators.

All the while,when discussions on the 2G scandal took place,notwithstanding pressure from the opposition,the government acted only when the courts came down heavily on them. If criminality or criminal intent in bringing loss to the exchequer is in the court’s domain,the policy that brought the loss was to be inquired into through a parliamentary committee. Stone-walling this demand,the government,because of its obduracy and arrogance,wasted a session,blaming the opposition. After having formed one,we see how the Congress is making a mockery of that exercise.

Without applying their mind,they produce a list of people who are to be called by the JPC. In that list there are people who are long deceased. BJP leaders Arun Shourie and Jaswant Singh had volunteered to be questioned by the CBI. Further,adding to this stubbornness of the government,as though in a planned manner,Congress members have reportedly used unacceptable language and created pandemonium in the JPC. The BJP had no alternative but to walk out of the JPC.

Even today,adding to the nation’s worry is the matter of the CWG,wherein,notwithstanding the Shunglu Committee’s report,no one significant has as yet faced the law. The Shunglu Committee held the Delhi government headed by Sheila Dikshit responsible for the scandal. Till today,Suresh Kalmadi has not even been chargesheeted. The PM,who assured Parliament of taking action,is facing the Congress chief minister of Delhi who has rejected the report. So much for the PM’s promise!

The measure,all this while,was that “the concerned minister” faced the law. In this case,that measure of “the concerned minister” points to the PM who held the coal portfolio during the period in question. Now,the Congress party and the government don’t want to apply that measure. In 2G and in Aircel-Maxis,as the then finance minister,P. Chidambaram too has evaded an inquiry. Does that measure then apply only to concerned ministers who belong to allied parties and not the Congress? The PM in the cabinet is the first among equals. We wonder if the principle of collective responsibility is lost on this government. If,till now,the PM was vicariously responsible,this time he is directly,morally and politically responsible.

The BJP respects institutions. As the principal opposition party,we have a duty to raise questions not just to seek answers but to demand action too. While debating in Parliament for the record is very important as it is,the opposition cannot forget unkept promises. Debates and discussions for the records or for their pedagogic value cannot be devoid of course-correction. Repeatedly,this government has failed to act,in spite of debates,cooperation in the committees and discussions in Parliament. This time,we expect action first.

The writer is the BJP’s national spokesperson

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