India

Jaitley Says Demand for Investigation into Kalmadi’s Appointment Not Personal Attack on Sonia Gandh

BeyondHeadlines News Desk/NDTV.com

New Delhi:  On Tuesday morning, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stepped up the ante in the Commonwealth Games (CWG) war of words, blaming Congress party President Sonia Gandhi for Suresh Kalmadi’s appointment as the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (OC) chairman. On Tuesday evening, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley sought to make clear that it was not a personal attack.

He also wished the Congress chief, who is recuperating from a surgery in the US, a speedy recovery.

The war, largely, is about whose Suresh Kalmadi is he anyway? Kamadi is in jail, charged with corruption in CWG projects. The government’s auditor, in a report last week, had blamed the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for Kalmadi’s appointment in a position that allowed him his alleged malpractices. In the Lok Sabha (lower house of Indian Parliament), Sports Minister Ajay Maken made a suo moto statement that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government of 2003 was responsible for the appointment of Kalmadi.

The BJP insists that Maken misled Parliament and in a debate on the minister’s statement in both houses, the main opposition party has said Kalmadi alone cannot be blamed for the CWG fiasco. “If heads are to roll then it must be heads of this government”, said Jaitley in the Rajya Sabha (upper house of Indian Parliament). In the Lok Sabha, Yashwant Sinha said, “Everybody is guilty…not just Kalmadi.”

The party has alleged, both in Parliament and outside, that Kalmadi’s appointment had Sonia Gandhi’s blessings. BJP President Nitin Gadkari said yesterday, “The road goes from (Sheila) Dikshit to Manmohan (Singh) and then to Sonia Gandhi’s house.”

The party has produced a letter written by Kalmadi, in 2007, to the Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary TKA Nair. In the letter, Kalmadi had said that the chairmanship of the Organising Committee for him and the board were created after a series of discussions with the PMO, ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and the Government of India.

Arun Jaitley, who is the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said that the prime minister had gone ahead with the selection of Kalmadi even though the Sports Ministry and bureaucrats in his own office had recommended against it.

But when a BJP MP made a remark against Sonia Gandhi, one that prompted big protests from Congress and two adjournments, Jaitley said, “We have been having a debate on important people, there will be references, I am one with entire House there should not be any inappropriate remarks for any leader, in this case the UPA chairperson. It should be deleted,” Jaitley said, adding, “We are all conscious of the fact that the chairperson is recovering from an illness. We wish her all the best.”

The BJP MP had to apologise.

In the Lok Sabha, the BJP’s Yashwant Sinha asked, “If the NDA appointed Kalmadi, why did you not remove him?” The strategy of the government was to blame everything on the Opposition, Sinha said, saying, “Suresh Kalmadi is a Congress MP…He became a BJP member when he went to Tihar?” The Lower House too saw angry and noisy protests from the Congress when the BJP named Mrs Gandhi.

Outside Parliament, at Jantar Mantar, the BJP’s youth workers clashed with the police. They jumped a barricade to proceed towards the Parliament House. The police struggled to bring the crowd under control using a lathicharge, water cannons and tear gas shells. The protesters threw what they could find back at the police.

Of the heads that the opposition wants to see roll, prominent is that of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. That was the main demand of the BJP protesters that clashed with the police too. Dikshit has been faulted by the CAG for overspending.

Earlier on Tuesday morning, the demand for Dikshit’s removal led to an uproar and adjournment of both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. It is expected to be raised again today.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kuman Bansal has questioned the BJP’s tactics. “Unfortunately, again, they (BJP) have disrupted the House and not let the Question Hour be taken up. There was a basic understanding that the legislative body must run smoothly. Today we saw a sudden change in the BJP’s stance. It raises genuine doubts in our mind whether they are serious about dialogue.”

The Congress is standing behind Dikshit, and says the CAG report – which claims there was mass corruption in the organisation of the Games – should be first cleared by a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament.

 

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