New Delhi: Senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi was on Friday in the eye of a storm after a former CAG official accused him of calling audit officials to his home for preparation of the PAC report on 2G scam that indicted the government.
Joshi, who heads Parliament`s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), offered to resign if allegations against him can be proved.
The allegation by RP Singh, former Director General, Post and Telecommunications at CAG, that he was told to sign on the 2010 audit report to Parliament that had estimated a loss of Rs. 1.76 lakh crore on account of spectrum sale also resurrected the controversy over the basis for such findings.
Singh has claimed that he had estimated a loss of only Rs 2645 crore and he had signed the report containing Rs 1.76 lakh crore loss on the orders of his superiors.
There were charges and counter charges between BJP and and the Congress and the Union Ministers latched on to Singh`s claims to attack BJP and Joshi.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi waded into the row when she said that BJP has been exposed by the comments of the former CAG official.
"Yes, certainly I think so," she said when reporters asked her whether BJP stood exposed by the `revelations` of Singh.
Joshi hit back saying the official`s charge was part of a conspiracy and campaign to malign institutions like CAG and PAC.
"I think Congress has been exposed instead. Those who adviced her to make the statement stand exposed. RP Singh had raised the issue earlier too. Why did she not speak out then," Joshi told reporters reacting to Gandhi`s comments.
He also said that it was Singh who had made a Power Point presentation before PAC on CAG`s report on 2G issue. "He never raised the issue then," Joshi said.
A battery of ministers trained their guns on the CAG and Joshi.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said Joshi as also Comptroller and Auditor General should clear the air on the issue.
"The issues raised by RP Singh, former DG, P&T, in CAG are very germane. What is extremely important is that in May 2010 when the draft report was prepared, the loss was quantified at Rs 2,645 crore, but in November 2010 when the report was presented in Parliament, this loss jumped to Rs 1.76 lakh crore. How did this leap of faith take place?" Tewari told reporters.
Tewari wanted to know as to who was responsible for increasing the presumptive loss figures and said this issue should be addressed by CAG.
"These are questions that the PAC Chairperson, Murli Manohar Joshi, for whom I have the utmost respect, needs to answer," the Minister said.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said there was a conspiracy against the government and now it was becoming clear from the former official`s statement.
Law Minister Ashwani Kumar questioned the integrity of CAG and demanded that the truth behind its presumptive loss estimate of Rs 1.76 lakh crore be made public.
Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal rejected BJP allegations that the government was behind Singh`s sensational claims, saying it had nothing to do with him.
"How come RP Singh is part of government. He is
retired. So how`s the Congress party maligning... We don`t know RP Singh," Sibal said.
"What Singh has done is somehow within the system (he) has spoken and (now) it is for the people of India to judge," he added.
Referring to Joshi`s charge that Singh`s allegations were an attempt to malign CAG and PAC by vested interests including the government, Sibal said how would he react if Singh had named him as part of the conspiracy to malign the government.
Responding to Singh`s claims, Joshi said he had never raised the issue when he had appeared before PAC to explain the loss to the exchequer.
"I wonder why he is speaking today," he said.
"Singh had made a similar statement after his retirement. But when we questioned him he denied giving any interview. He was questioned on the issue by the Joint Parliamentary Committee as well but he failed to prove anything," Joshi said.
Joshi said as PAC Chairman he had the powers to call any official to his house or office for consultations. He denied calling CAG officials to his home on a Good Friday in 2011, a claim made by Singh, or taking their help in finalising the PAC report.
BJP accused the former CAG official as being a "pawn in
the hands of the government" and termed his comments as a "sinister conspiracy".
"This public comment by R P Singh is a very sinister conspiracy. He is a pawn in the hands of Congress and the government to defame CAG," BJP Chief Spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
Appearing before the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) going into the 2G issue on November 14, 2011, Singh had said quantification of loss was not part of the objectives of the CAG audit and the final figure of Rs.1.76 lakh crore was at best a "mathematical guess".
Singh had told the JPC that the Rs 2,645 crore figure, calculated by him, was the actual loss based on non-revision of entry fee for telecom operators and the figure was part of the draft report.
The former CAG official maintained that the loss due to allocation of 2G spectrum could not be calculated as auction was neither recommended by TRAI nor contemplated by the government.