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Duel over CAG's 2G figure &the new CBI chief gets feisty

THE second day of the winter session of Parliament began with one slugfest and ended with another.

A pumped up Congress fired the first salvo by accusing the BJP of being involved in the " CAG conspiracy" of inflating the loss figure in the 2G scam. Not ready to lie low, the principal Opposition party returned fire by attacking the government over the controversial appointment of the new CBI chief.

The war of words started over a claim by former CAG principal audit officer R. P. Singh that Public Accounts Committee chairperson and senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi had influenced the CAG report, which allegedly inflated the notional loss figure in the 2G spectrum allocation from Rs 2,645 crore to a whopping Rs 1.76 lakh crore.

The Congress went ballistic trying to put the BJP on the mat. The party was so elated with the latest disclosure that none other than party president Sonia Gandhi led the attack against the BJP, saying that the saffron party stood exposed. " Yes, certainly, I think so," Sonia told reporters on Parliament complex when asked if the BJP's accusations had backfired.

While the Congress demanded an inquiry into the alleged conspiracy, the BJP trashed the claim and alleged that the auditor's belated disclosure was at the bidding of the Congress.

After Ajmal Qasab's hanging, R. P. Singh's bombshell has boosted the confidence of the Congress and the party plans to go on the offensive against the saffron party and the CAG. R. P. Singh's revelations, however, are not new. They appear to have been resurrected a year after they were first made to give a stick to the Congress to beat the CAG with. AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh said he would ask the government to conduct a special investigation into the leak of various CAG reports before they reached Parliament. The DMK, a UPA ally, is set to raise the issue of " CAG conspiracy" and demand a discussion on the floor of the House on Monday.

Privately, BJP leaders said this was a clever ploy on the part of the government cornered on the FDI issue.

BJP sources said the party would raise the pitch in Parliament in the days to come. The Congress has also garnered the support of the Left parties in probing the " CAG- Joshi nexus", sources said. The Left, with whom the BJP has coordinated its efforts against FDI in retail, attacked the party on Friday. " The allegation that he ( Joshi) influenced the report is very serious. Joshi should explain his position," said Communist Party of India national secretary D. Raja.

Parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath said: " Joshi must explain his position. It is a serious matter.

What is the conspiracy going on in the CAG?" Joshi vehemently denied R. P. Singh's allegations and demanded an apology from Sonia for her remark.

" This is a part of a conspiracy by the government to malign institutions like the CAG and the PACC* It wants to hide its own misdemeanours," he said.

Even as the heated exchange continued over the " CAG conspiracy", the BJP launched a fresh attack on the UPA government, asking the latter to annul the appointment of ITBP director general Ranjit Sinha as the new CBI chief. The party criticised the government for announcing Sinha's name just a day before a select committee of the Rajya Sabha tabled its recommendations on Lokpal in Parliament, suggesting for the appointment through collegium comprising the Prime Minister, the leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha and the Chief Justice of India.

In a strongly- worded letter to PM Manmohan Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, BJP's leaders in the two houses respectively, said: " The manner in which the government made this appointment hours before the tabling of the recommendation persuades us to a conclusion that the government wanted to preempt the possibility of this recommendation in the present appointment." Late at night, the PM wrote back to Jaitley, rejecting the BJP's demand to annul Sinha's appointment. He said the investigating agency could not be kept without a head pending the enactment of the Lokpal Bill.

If one takes into account the blows exchanged between the Congress and BJP, the first round will certainly go to the ruling party. The Congress, under fire from the CAG and the BJP over the 2G scam and Coalgate, has smartly turned the table on them.

Signs of a fight- back by the Congress were always there. First minister of state for personnel V. Naray anasamy dropped the hint of converting the CAG into a multi- member body. Though he later denied the statement, the episode made it apparent that the Congress was ready to take on the auditor. Then the failed 2G auction gave the party a reason to question the CAG's loss calculation.

And now the R. P. Singh episode has put a question mark over the integrity of an institution like the CAG.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Nov 24, 2012
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