AnotherCAGRe­port­maySeePo­lit­i­calJoust­ing

Cong seizes au­di­tor’s com­ments on GSPC to tar­get Modi who was CM of Gu­jarat

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics -

New Delhi: The au­di­tor is back at the cen­tre of po­lit­i­cal con­tro­versy, this time as a tool in the hands of the Congress to tar­get Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi for al­leged lack of re­turn on in­vest­ments made by the Gu­jarat State Petroleum Cor­po­ra­tion. Congress spokesman Jairam Ramesh in his cus­tom­ary flam­boy­ance on Mon­day de­clared that the “only gas the GSPC project even­tu­ally pro­duced was a lot of po­lit­i­cal gas and noth­ing else”. Clearly, the Congress is field­ing one of its elo­quent rab­ble rousers whose stint in theen­vi­ron­ment­min­istry,manyUPA in­sid­ers say, was equally ac­tivist.

The is­sue at hand is, how­ever, more se­ri­ous.Atonelevel,it’sthe­wor­ry­ing trendof an­oth­er­ven­ture­a­t­ex­ploit­ing gas in the KG basin at depths rang­ing from20­to60mthathas­notquit­ede­liv­ered against ini­tial prom­ise, rais­ing is­sues of long-term en­ergy se­cu­rity.

At a dif­fer­ent level, how­ever, this is also be­ing seen as a case of in­vest­ment go­ing wrong or not de­liv­er­ing on ex­pected re­turn. But the CAG au­dit de­scribes it as “waste­ful ex­pen­di­ture” to the tune of ₹ 19,716 crore.

Ei­ther way, the heat is on GSPC to now show pro­duc­tion against its in­vest­ment. The larger ques­tion, how­ever, is the po­lit­i­cal play on the is­sue. The fact is the Gu­jarat govern­ment has got the au­dit done a year be­fore it was due ap­par­ently be­cause it had in­di­ca­tions that things were not go­ing ac­cord­ing to plan.

This act of “proac­tive over­sight” has now given Congress a han­dle to per­son­alisethe­at­tack­on­thePM.The ex­treme­lan­guageused­bytheau­di­tor like “zero re­turn to the ex­che­quer” or “pub­lic money lies vir­tu­ally wasted”, to count a few, is now mu­sic to Congress’s ears as the many in the party eu­phor­i­cally feel they have got Modi his 2G-like headache.

While that may be far­fetched, it’s now for the BJP to tem­per­ate the gram­mar. The fact is that th­ese are high-risk long-ges­ta­tion projects with no as­sured re­turn at the start.

GSPC is be­ing seen as a case of in­vest­ment go­ing wrong or not de­liv­er­ing on ex­pected re­turn

CAG SHASHI KANT SHARMA

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