Saturday, January 8, 2011

Kapil Sibal can only confuse his own party

In trashing the CAG report on the telecom 2G spectrum scam particularly its estimate of the revenue loss to the exchequer of the order of Rs.1.76 lac crore or US$39 billion on account of iniquitous and arbitrary allotment of the telecom spectrum and issue of the UAS licences by the then Union telecom minister A. Raja, the present telecom minister Kapil Sibal has only complicated the matters. There is an inconvenient fact that he seems to have overlooked that here he is not dealing with the opposition for whom the usually combative lawyer minister has nothing but the utmost contempt but with the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India, a Constitutional authority charged with auditing the accounts of various wings of the government and point out where proper accounting norms have not been followed and where money has been unwisely spent or unwisely not earned. By laying into the report and dismissing the presumptive figure as the figment of some fertile imagination, Sibal has only tried to bring into disrepute an institution which predates India’s independence by no less than 87 years and serves as a Constitutional safeguard against the government’s recklessness in money matters. Obviously, he is the spear head of his side which has now gone into an attacking mode after all its defences failed against the opposition’s single-minded onslaught demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee to go into all aspects of the 2G spectrum scam. But in taking on the CAG he and, through him, his party are only belittling and damaging an institution so essential for the good health of our democracy. They are trying to do to CAG what Indira Gandhi did to so many other institutions on which a democratic India rested.

Further, by ridiculing the CAG report Sibal has sort of given a clean chit to his predecessor, the infamous A. Raja. The BJP is right then in asking for what reason Raja was turned out of the Union cabinet if he had not committed any serious irregularity. His own party had so far been claiming the moral high ground and intolerance for corruption by holding out the example of Raja whom they eased out because of his wrong doings; Sibal’s recent support to Raja has left the rank and file of the Congress party confused. Senior BJP leader and chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Murli Manohar Joshi, whom the Congress had been placating in the hope that he would give an opportunity to the prime minister to appear before the PAC and explain his role in the allotment of 2G spectrum and thus avoid appointing a JPC, has turned the tables on Sibal by his statement that Sibal should first read the CAG report fully before passing judgment on it.

Finally, does Sibal not understand that the credibility of the UPA government has taken such a bad tumble that the people of India are not going to believe one word of the long explanations he might offer? And unless the government shows its resolve by getting those who have looted lacs of crores of rupees of public money behind the bars and recovering from them everything that they had stolen, it will have to live with this credibility gap howsoever humiliating or insulting it may be.

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