Interview with Digvijay Singh, AICC general secretary.
DIGVIJAY SINGH, a general secretary of the All India Congress Committee, speaking to Frontline, defended his party's position of refusing to accept the demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the 2G spectrum scam.
In recent times, the United Progressive Alliance government has faced flak over allegations of corruption in the conduct of the Commonwealth Games and the allocation of 2G spectrum, among others. The government led by Manmohan Singh seems to be in danger of losing its clean image.
No, I don't think so. The Government of India has always been very sensitive to the issue of corruption. All these scams have come to light because of the empowerment to the people of India through the Right to Information Act, which was enacted at the initiative of Mrs Sonia Gandhi and much against the wishes of the establishment. In the case of the CWG, action has already been initiated and no one will be spared.
In the case of 2G, the opposition is being unfair for the following reasons. First, the CAG is an audit body, which conveys to the government discrepancies in the revenue and expenditure of a financial year . It is not an investigative agency. Second, the CAG report is tabled in Parliament and the Public Accounts Committee, which is headed by a senior leader of the [main] opposition party, goes into it. It has the power to call anyone from the government to appear and testify. The opposition has ample opportunity before it to find out the culprit and suggest a course of action to Parliament.
Third, JPCs have been constituted four times since Independence and in all cases have not been able to deliver.
Four, it is headed by a ruling party member and the majority is of the ruling party. Five, not allowing Parliament to function is undemocratic and un-parliamentary. If you notice, every session is being disturbed on issues that have to be debated. Why is the opposition not allowing a debate?
In a joint statement, the non-BJP opposition has called the spectrum scam the single-largest corruption scandal in independent India.
A. Raja has acted on the policy formulated by the National Democratic Alliance government. This policy was formulated by Pramod Mahajan when he was the Minister and followed by Arun Shourie and confirmed by the Prime Minister. The figure of Rs.1,76,000 crore is arbitrary and has been arrived at on the basis of figures given to the CAG by a corporate entity that was disqualified. The logical thing would be to allow the PAC to discuss the CAG report and then debate the issue in Parliament, where A. Raja will get the opportunity to reply.
The Congress took some corrective measures by asking the people concerned to step down from their posts. Clearly, the opposition parties do not think this is enough.
The Bharatiya Janata Party is an expert in doublespeak. If you trace the corruption charges against its leaders, it has shamelessly defended their corruption. The most recent example is that of the Karnataka Chief Minister; he allotted precious land to his sons and daughter and they sold it at a value that was 50 times more than what they had paid for it. Shamelessly, the BJP is defending him.
The Reddy brothers, who have violated every single rule and regulation in their mining business, merrily continue to be in the government. Bangaru Laxman, Dilip Singh Judev and many others who were caught on tape have been pardoned and rewarded.
The nexus between the corporate world and the political class, especially the ruling classes, seems to be getting more and more entrenched. Is this healthy for a country like India where the vast majority is virtually unrepresented in social or economic terms?
I certainly don't approve of what is happening. The only way to check corruption is to make the law [pertaining to determining] assets disproportionate to their known sources of income more stringent. Property returns of politicians, bureaucrats, the judiciary and now the media should be made public every year. Although not mandatory, I had along with all my Cabinet Ministers [in Madhya Pradesh] tabled on the floor of the House every year the list of movable and immovable assets. After 2003, when the BJP came to power in Madhya Pradesh, the practice was promptly discontinued.