BJP alleges conspiracy on part of Congress to defame CAG
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Friday charged the Congress with conspiracy to defame and attack the Comptroller and Auditor General.
Former Director General, Post and Telecommunications at Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), R P Singh disowned the report on 2G-spectrum allocation and said that he was asked to sign the report.
He also said that CAG officials had visited Joshi's residence to help him to prepare the panel's report on the 2G-spectrum allocation and that a figure of rupees 1.76 lakh crores (1.7 trillion) loss quoted by CAG was debatable and questionable as it was a presumptive loss.
Singh said that a figure of rupees 1.76 lakh crores (1.7 trillion) loss quoted by CAG was debatable and questionable as it was a presumptive loss.
BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad called R P Singh a 'pawn' in the hands of the Congress party and added that he has suddenly opened his mouth after a year, which raised suspicion among political circles.
The government had begun the auction for the 2G spectrum with a hope to meet the Rs. 40,000 crore revenue budget.
Five bidders, namely, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular, Telenor and Videocon are bidding for the GSM (Global System for Mobiles) airwaves.
There were no bidders for the CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) airwaves with Tata Teleservices pulling out of the auction.
Instead of auctioning entire spectrum freed from cancellation of licences, the government thought of auctioning a maximum of 11 blocks of airwaves frequencies in each circle, barring Delhi and Mumbai where there are only eight blocks, to attract high price for spectrum.
"Surely, what else is it? After all, why he kept quiet for one year? Why the same officer presents the same CAG report before the JPC, before the Public Accounts Committee? He does not utter a word at all and now you see, he is after retirement, he is a pawn in the hands of the Congress party and the government. It is part of a pattern of attacking the CAG," he said.
The report of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) questioned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Attorney-General G E Vahanvati for their role in spectrum allocation.
Commenting over the latest figures in the report, R P Singh had said that the decision to include the loss figures was taken by Joshi.
The apex court had allowed the companies, whose permits were cancelled, to get spectrum reallocated for continuing their business if they win rights for the airwaves frequencies in the auction. As per the Supreme Court's directive, the cancelled permits included Uninor's 22 licences, Loop Telecom (21), Sistema Shyam (21), Idea Cellular including Spice Communications (13), Videocon (21), Etisalat DB formerly Swan Telecom (15), S-Tel (6) and Tata Teleservices (3 CDMA licences).
Leader of India's regional Trinamool Congress, Vivek Gupta, said that CAG has a lot of respect and added that the government had himself admitted that there was some irregularity.
"CAG is a constitutional body. It has a lot of respect. Let us just say, for example, just playing the devil's advocate, if the figure is here and there, but one thing cannot be denied, the government has themselves admitted that there was some wrongdoing. Otherwise, why would they revise the reserve price for the auction? So, that means, 2G (CAG) was right in pointing out that something wrong was done. The government of the day, especially the minister's in charge were responsible and yes, charges of favouritism cannot be denied. It is evident," he said.
TMC leaders gathered outside the parliament to protest against the Congress party and demanded the allotment of a room for parliamentary party office.
According to media reports, TMC party chief Mamata Banerjee had directed all the party lawmakers to be present in the parliament on the opening day of winter session on Thursday (November 22). Trinamool Congress has 19 members in the lower house of parliament.
In the month of September, the TMC pulled out of the government over fuel price hike and opening of retail sector to foreign supermarkets chains.
Gupta added that their party would continue to raise their voice at all forums in a peaceful manner.
"We are meeting here, now deciding our strategy. However, we will continue to raise our voice at all political forums in a peaceful, democratic manner," he said.
The Indian government is scrambling for support during the ongoing parliament session that will severely test its economic reform agenda, and its chances of success look bleak.
For the moment, there is no threat of the government falling. But an obstructive opposition and unreliable allies could mean there is little progress on reforms like opening up insurance and pension businesses when parliament's month-long winter session gets under way.
BJP leader Prakash Javadekar said that it was the political ploy of Congress to disrupt the parliamentary proceedings and defame the opposition.
He added that they were just demanding a debate and voting on the government's proposal to allow foreign direct investment in the retail sector.
"See, for the last two days, the house is getting adjourned for the day, not because of BJP, but because of BSP members going into the well. This is I think a Congress strategy, so that their friendly parties go into the well, disturb the house and they can defame the BJP. This is the Congress design. I think that what we are demanding is the voting discussion on FDI in retail, on voting motion," he said.
Javadekar emphasised on the need of a voting in parliament, following a revelation that the Indian joint venture of Wal-Mart Stores Inc has suspended its chief financial officer and other employees as it investigates alleged violations of U.S. anti-bribery laws.
Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, said last week it has opened internal inquiries or investigations into bribery allegations in Brazil, China and India, which follows an earlier probe in Mexico.
Indian authorities are also investigating claims that Wal-Mart violated foreign exchange rules when it invested USD 100 million in a domestic unit owned by its wholesale joint-venture partner.
"This is necessary because in the light of a new revelation today that even the US government is enquiring into the allegations, whether Walmart has got access in India by paying bribes. If this is true, they are enquiring Walmart's bribery practices in four countries. So, this will become a yet another big scam," he said.
Analysts warn of a "nightmare scenario" in which the government loses a test vote in parliament on its flagship reform - opening up the retail sector to foreign supermarkets, a decision that has drawn fire from both opponents and allies who say it will destroy the livelihoods of mom and pop store owners.
The reform does not require parliamentary approval. But left- and-right-wing opposition parties, with an eye to upcoming state and national elections, want to use the session to hold the government to account on the policy, which they say does not have popular support.