BJP, Congress lock horns over CAG’s role in Rafale deal

Business Standard - - ECONOMY & PUBLIC AFFAIRS - INDIVJALDHASMANA

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.

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