New Delhi: Former Comptroller Auditor General Vinod Rai has attacked former prime minister Manmohan Singh over the 2G spectrum allocation, saying integrity is not just financial but intellectual and professional too.
He claimed that Congress leaders had sought to apply pressure on him to keep the PM's name out from the audit report brought out by his office.
Rai, whose loss estimates in 2G spectrum and coal block allocations pushed the then UPA government into a corner, was also critical of the coalition politics under Dr Singh and alleged suggested that he was more interested in remaining in power.
Rai said that prime minister was the "primus inter pares (first among equals)" of the council of ministers and all matters of importance go him in a parliamentary democracy.
"The buck stops at the PM's desk in any parliamentary democracy. He is the CEO of the country. He can stop, or he can initiate, both. I have written in the book that he probably chose not to stop," the former CAG said.
"Integrity is not just financial; it is intellectual integrity; it is professional integrity. You have an oath of allegiance to the constitution and that is important," he told a magazine.
He was asked what was his understanding of PM's psychology considering that many revered him as an elder statesman.
Rai replied that "you cannot have the nation being subjugated to the state and the state being a coalition of political parties. The belief was that good politics makes good economics too. But does good politics mean just staying in power?"
On audit of Reliance Industries' KG-basin gas fields, he said "the PM's remarks about Reliance in a conversation do not nail him directly... In Reliance case, no decision was taken at the minister's level. This he (Mukesh Ambani) was running it himself".
Rai said he did not get any support from the political establishment or the government at that time except for one or two statements by then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
When asked if his phone was being tapped, he replied "100 percent. Of course, it was being tapped".
Asked if he had been the prime minister what his response would have been to the loss figures in CAG reports, Rai said: "I would have said that I would hold it in abeyance for the time being in the belief that I was damaging my politics in letting this unfold".
He said Singh was "overawed by the compulsions of coalition politics" and UPA's response to scams was "tempered by politics".
"If you are in politics and become the head of a government, your training in Oxford or Cambridge has nothing to do with it.
“It is ultimately robust commonsense applied in a particular systemized fashion that contains administration. You just have to have your antenna in place to be able to pick up whatever is there in the environment. And then with alacrity respond to it. But your response is the main thing.
Rai, who is writing a book on his days as head of CAG also gave an interview to a news channel. When asked if the 2G spectrum scam could have happened without active involvement of the then prime minister, Rai said: "No, that's exactly why I have said that if he had put his foot down, probably the fate and the course of UPA 2 would have been different."
"If he had put his foot down and stopped this process from unfolding. It could have been any other process, we are not prescribing a process, it could have been any other process, but this process was faulty in a large number of ways. And the government has also accepted that rules and regulations were not being followed, goalposts had been shifted," he said in an interview to a news channel.
"On one occasion when I called on him, the PM said I hope you don't expect a reply from me, whereas he was replying to Raja twice a day. So how can he be not held responsible for the onus of that decision?," Rai said.
Recalling that Singh had on November 16, 2010 told him that the figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crore 2G loss was not the right way of computing, Rai said he had told the then PM "'Sir, these are the econometric methods that you have taught us'. This was sitting on the stage of Vigyan Bhavan".
He said some ministers in the Manmohan Singh's cabinet had been writing to him about problems in the telecom sector.
"I found that minister of his own council who were writing to him again and again, saying that problems are (there) or there is talk about developments in the telecom sector.
"I quoted Mr. Kamal Nath writing to the prime minister and expressing concerns about the development in the sector. I have written about the finance ministry expressing concerns, I have written about the law ministry expressing concerns. Now, all these things went to the prime minister," Rai said.
He claimed that Manmohan Singh had given only a "template reply" to letter written to him by by former communications minister A Raja of the DMK.
Asked about reports that he had faced pressure by politicians concerning his report, Rai said that he had mentioned in his book that during the course of meetings in the Public Accounts Committee or the sidelines of the JPC (Joint Parliamentary Committee), "a large number of people told him to keep this out and that out".
"And I mentioned in the book that after the PAC meeting on the 2G, Congress MPs did tell me that keep the prime minister out of this," he said.
Asked about the MPs, he said: A"There were 3-4 Congress MPs, they aren't Congress MPs anymore. So its very easy to find out who are they."
Pressed further, he said: "I can't recall the names just now, but the Congress MPs who were present in those meetings were Sanjay Nirupam, Ashwini Kumar, Sandeep Dikshit. Now which of them were at the lunch telling me to do that, I really can't tell you," he said.
UPA erred by letting Kalmadi control CWG: Rai
During the interview, Rai said the then UPA government's decision to let party leader Suresh Kalmadi chair the organising committee of the Commonwealth Games, rather than a minister accountable to the government, was "incorrect".
"It was in form and substance, both, incorrect," Rai said, alluding that government money was spent by a body that was not accountable to the government.
Rai further said that the prime minister's office ensured that Kalmadi controlled the games completely.
"The PMO wrote to the sports ministry saying this will be the formulation of the committee. It was totally within Suresh Kalmadi to control the entire Commonwealth Games. And he did in fact control it entirely," Rai said.
Congress leaders hit back at Vinod Rai
Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam rejected as an "outright lie" the claim by former CAG that along with party members Sandeep Dikshit and Ashwani Kumar he had sought to put pressure on the chief auditor to keep the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's name out of the reports on the 2G and coal-block allocations.
In an interview to the news channel, Rai claimed that the then Congress MPs, including Sandeep Dikshit, Sanjay Nirupam and Ashwani Kumar, had sought to put pressure on him to keep the Prime Minister's name out of the said CAG reports.
"That was a futile attempt," Rai said.
Rejecting the charge, Nirupam said, "Rai has told an outright lie. I never talked to him. I challenge his memory and want to remind him that I never met him."
Another Congress leader Manish Tewari said: "Rai Sahib allegedly says he was holding a constitutional position, hence the silence? Was it not incumbent on him since he was holding a constitutional position to speak out if he was being ostensibly pressurised to do or not to do his duty in a particular manner."
The Congress leader, in a tweet, invited Rai for a debate on "sensationalism that formed the staple of his tenure".
(With Agency inputs)