The government on Monday agreed to a debate on the row triggered by sports and youth affairs minister Ajay Maken’s statement in Parliament, which blamed the NDA regime for the appointment of Suresh Kalmadi as the chief of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee.
The two Houses of Parliament could not transact any business on Monday as a determined opposition stalled proceedings, demanding Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit’s resignation after a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General pointed fingers at her for irregularities committed in the contracts handed out by her government in the run-up to the Games.
With the Opposition unrelenting, the government had no option but to agree to their demand for a discussion on the controversy kicked off by Maken’s statement. This is the second time in a week that the ruling side has conceded to Opposition pressure in Parliament.
The stalemate between the two sides on spiraling prices was broken only after the government managers acquiesced to the Opposition’s demand for holding a debate on the issue under rules which allowed voting. The Opposition saw the development as victory.
“They have scored a self-goal. They initially rejected our demand on the ground that CAG reports cannot be discussed in Parliament as they have to taken up by the Public Accounts Committee first. So we turned our attention to Maken’s statement. We will train our guns on the PMO and the Sheila Dikshit government during the discussion on the issue in the two Houses on Tuesday,” remarked a senior BJP leader.
While in the Lok Sabha, former Union minister Yashwant Sinha, who moved a breach of privilege notice against Maken, will flag the discussion, before leaving the floor for his party colleague Kirti Azad, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley will initiate the debate, before passing the baton to Prakash Javadekar.
The thrust of the principal Opposition party’s argument will be that Kalmadi arm-twisted the government into transforming the Organising Committee from a governmentappointed body to a private agency. “In September, 2004, he surreptitiously inserted a paper, which had the OC’s character. The Union Cabinet, PMO and Arjun Singh-led GoM later endorsed his stand,” the BJP leader maintained.
At a press conference later, Sinha alleged Maken misled Parliament by “concealing crucial facts”. The BJP leader had given two notices to the Speaker – one seeking suspension of question hour and debate on the Sports Minister’s statement made in both Houses on August 2 and the other on ‘breach of privilege’ on Maken’s part in alleging that NDA was responsible for Suresh Kalmadi’s appointment as OC chairman.
“Maken gave selective facts. He hid crucial facts and misled Parliament. We reject his charges as baseless,” Sinha alleged and claimed that the chronology of events show that “everything happened” after the NDA regime ended in May 2004. Sinha said Maken had pegged his entire argument on the December, 2003, host city contract signed by Kalmadi, who was the IOA president, Lt Governor and Secretary, Youth and Sports Ministry.
“When we get more facts we will further expose the government,” he said. The BJP leader also refuted parliamentary affairs minister PK Bansal’s statement rejecting the notice for privilege motion against Maken. “He has no right to sit on judgement on it. My notice is based on facts,” he claimed.
Maken, however, stood firm on his stand. “The IOA on November 1, 2004, getting benefit from the Host City contract elected — not selected, not recommended — Suresh Kalmadi as Organising Committee chairman and the people who elected Kalmadi as OC chairman were Vijay Kumar Malhotra, Abhay Chautala, Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Tarlochan Singh – all from the NDA,” he said.
Government strategists were also planning to run down CAG for overstepping its brief, insisting that the audit watchdog could only see if funds were being utilized properly or there was any corruption involved.
“It cannot comment on government policy or appointments,” a Union minister pointed out. Economic Times