CWG scam: Opposition tears into govt, pins blame on PM, Sonia

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New Delhi, 10 August 2011: Tuesday entirely belonged to the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. After successfully managing to engage the government in a debate in Parliament over the CWG issue, BJP tore into the government for the "massive scandal" as it put the blame for Suresh Kalmadi’s appointment as the Organizing Committee chief on the doors of PM Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. Both sides clashed frequently in a debate over the issue in the Upper House, with the ruling party MPs forcing adjournment thrice after BJP members called Sonia names. 


What added to Congress’ woes was the absence of Abhishek Manu Singhvi, the party’s lead speaker to take on Jaitley, in the House. The party had reckoned Singhvi, with his legal acumen, could counter Jaitley’s case against the PMO. MoS for parliamentary affairs Rajiv Shukla looked troubled when he found that the Congress member was missing. Shukla, who soon stepped out of the House to look for his pinch-hitter in the Central Hall, only to find he was missing from the arena. Then, treasury bench had to field Rashid Alvi, who had to rely on newspaper reports to take on the BJP. Alvi alleged that BJP’s Vijay Kumar Malhotra was the prime mover behind Kalmadi’s appointment as the head of OC. By the time Singhvi’s turn came, the House was adjourned for the day. 


Initiating the debate, Leader of the Opposition in Upper House, Arun Jaitley, said that the prime minister himself was responsible for allowing Kalmadi to convert what should have been a non-profit government body into a private entity. "It was the PM, who in December, 2004, overruled all objections and allowed Kalmadi to chair the Games’ organizing committee. Later, in January 2005, the Arjun Singh-led GoM also decided that Kalmadi would become the chairman," said Jaitley. 

Jaitley said that after the Congress government came to power in 2004, the government facilitated the same year introduction of an "updated bid document" from the original 2003 version, which allowed Kalmadi to convert the committee into a private body. "House has to take extraordinary steps...all files and documents which have been withheld should be summoned and inspected in the House," he said as he accused the government of "monumental deception". 


Later speakers CPI’s D Raja, CPM’s Prasanta Chatterjee and BJP’s Prakash Javadekar raised more questions about the CWG, citing evidence of involvement of Delhi chief minister Shiela Dikshit and the then finance minister P Chidambaram. 


The House was debating Union sports minister Ajay Maken’s remarks that it was the BJP-led NDA government which had signed a contract in 2003 that allowed Kalmadi to head the committee. Jaitley also cited a letter from Kalmadi written to principal secretary in the PMO in 2007 in which he boasted that he had become the chief of the OC only "after a series of meeting with the UPA chairperson, PM and GoM". 


As Jaitley referred to the UPA chairperson, BJP members raised slogan against Sonia, which drew a sharp response from the ruling party MPs. Deputy chairman K Rahman Khan assured that the remarks made by BJP MPs would be expunged, but the ruling party MPs did not relent. Members from both the sides rushed to the well of the House after which Khan adjourned the House for 15 minutes. On resumption, the ruling party members did not allow Jaitley to continue his speech as they demanded an apology from him on behalf of his party members forcing another adjournment.


In the post-lunch session, Jaitley did say that "personal remarks" shouldn’t have been made by his party members and that the BJP wished the Congress president well and knew that she was recovering from illness. This though failed to pacify Congress MPs who wanted Jaitley to use the word apology. "What has been said by the BJP MPs cannot be a part of parliamentary discourse. I hope the leader of opposition will have the generosity to apologise on behalf of his party MPs," said Congress MP and Union minister Ashwani Kumar. Later, BJP’s Vijaykumar Rupani apologized for his remarks against Sonia.

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