BJP leader and Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Murli Manohar Joshi on Friday took strong exception to the leakage of the draft report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on Reliance Industries’ gas operations to the media and even threatened to move a privilege motion.
Joshi’s concern about the leakage of the report came as a surprise to many as it has only benefitted the BJP’s anti-government campaign. The BJP leader, who addressed a press conference here, castigated the report’s leakage and demanded that the Manmohan Singh government “come clean” on the gas issue by either denying the reports or spelling out facts.
Training his guns at the petroleum ministry, Joshi wanted to know how the CAG’s draft report reached the media. “Has government probed? The suspicion is that it was leaked through the ministry… It is a privilege issue. We will consult constitutional experts.”
However, when asked against whom the privilege motion would be moved, he said that has to be explored. Joshi also reiterated his party’s demand that home minister P Chidambaram should quit and recalled that he was the finance minister when the empowered group of ministers (EGoM) decided on fixing the gas price in 2007.
“It’s a coincidence that Chidambaram was the finance minister even then. So many corruption issues came up. Now, when he is the home minister, so many more issues with Pakistan are coming up…wrong lists are being sent to Pakistan. Recently, questions were even being raised on his winning elections through fraudulent means. But that the Election Commission will decide. Is he fit to remain in office? I strongly demand his resignation,” Joshi said at a press conference.
The BJP has been targeting Chidambaram alleging he was culpable in the 2G scam and should step down. The Pranab Mukherjee-led EGoM had taken a decision that the supply of natural gas would be made at a selling price of $ 4.2 per one million British thermal Unit (mmBtu) for all customers across all sectors.
The EGoM also included Chidambaram, Murli Deora, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Ram Vilas Paswan, HR Bharadwaj, Prem Chand Gupta and Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia. Joshi said the EGoM allowed Reliance Industries to charge a price of $4.2 when government companies were selling the same gas for $1.8 per unit and demanded to know the basis of the decision.
“Under whose pressure was the EGoM? What was the loss to the exchequer? What is the justification for the fuel prices,” he asked. Alleging that there have been a “string of scams”, he said the draft CAG report showed how government allowed gas companies to indulge in corruption. Refuting the government’s contention that it needed to read the draft properly, he said “this is not a one-stage process..The draft is actually the third stage. Before the draft report, the CAG sends a detailed questionnaire raising its doubts on each point as asking it to comment point by point.. These comments and justifications are incorporated in the draft report.”
However, Joshi evaded questions about Reliance’s role saying “we will comment only when the report is tabled”. Murli Manohar Joshi also demanded that the government come out with a “rational formula” on fuel prices so that the common man is not burdened. Economic Times