BJP, Congress lock horns over CAG’s role in Rafale deal
An imminent report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) on Rafale deal has triggered a war of words between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress. Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal on Sunday accused CAG Rajiv Mehrishi of conflict of interest.
Sibal said how could Mehrishi “investigate himself”, since he had been the Union Finance (Economic Affairs) Secretary when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Rafale deal in April 2015.
“The CAG was involved as the finance secretary in harming the national security when the deal was struck in 2015. The same CAG would present the report,” Sibal said.
The CAG is likely to submit its report to President Ram Nath Kovind on Monday, after which it would be tabled in Parliament. The current session of Parliament will continue till Wednesday.
Mehrishi was appointed the home secretary in August 2015, before he took charge as CAG in September last year.
Responding to the Congress’s charge, Union Minister Arun Jaitley, who is back in India after his treatment in the US, tweeted that the economic affairs secretary has no role in expenditure files of the defence ministry and these are dealt with by the expenditure secretary.
“After 10 years in the government, former UPA ministers still don't know that finance secretary is only a designation given to the seniormost secretary in the finance ministry,” Jaitley tweeted.
In a blog, Jaitley accused the Congress of launching “fake campaigns” against the defence forces, judiciary and Reserve Bank. He said it is time to protect the country as well as its institutions from “institution wreckers”.
In a Facebook post, the minister recalled how the Congress-led governments used to interfere with institutions like the RBI, judiciary and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
On the RBI, Jaitley said Congress governments in the past have been liberal in asking governors of the central bank to quit. “Pt. Nehru, Mrs. Indira Gandhi and subsequently Mr Yashwant Sinha had asked governors to quit. During the UPA government, two governors were barely on speaking terms with the Finance Minister. Nothing of this kind has happened in the recent past,” he said.
The government legitimately flags the issues relating to liquidity and credit availability with the RBI, Jaitley said.
“The government is the principal manager of the nation’s economy. How can raising legitimate issues relating to credit and liquidity availability be an interference with the RBI? The government consistently maintained communication with the RBI governors during its tenure," Jaitley said.