Former Union Minister Andimuthu Raja has challenged the erstwhile Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), Vinod Rai to a public debate so as to establish the wrongdoing on his part and to ascertain the basis for concluding that the 2G decisions of the government had resulted in a colossal presumptive loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore. Raja, who had spent 15 months imprisoned at the Tihar Jail, but last month was exonerated by a Special CBI Court in Delhi has alleged that there had been a political conspiracy which led to Rai’s ill founded inferences. Therefore, according to Raja’s submission, Rai should face a commission of inquiry to explain his conduct and thus apologise to the nation for totting up a grossly exaggerated figure based not on any accounting calculations but a mere figment of his own imagination. Raja, in his latest book, 2G Saga Unfolds brought out by Har Anand publications, has directly accused former Solicitor General, the late Goolam Vahanvati, of blatantly lying to the CBI. Contrary to the truth, Vahanvati had maintained, that he (Raja) had never met the then External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee along with him in the latter’s office in December 2007, following the advice of the Prime Minister. He is simultaneously perplexed why Dr Manmohan Singh, as well as Pranab Mukherjee, made no attempt to clear the air regarding the meeting; especially since Vahanvati’s statement to the probe agency had resulted in a case of forgery being registered against him.
In fact, Raja’s book hunts for the authentic reason for his being made a fall guy when “he had done nothing wrong” and suggests that he was a victim of a conspiracy aimed at discrediting the UPA government. Although there are clear indications as to who he has in mind while presenting his own conspiracy theory, yet it has become imperative for eminent persons who figure in the book to clarify the issues that have emerged. The book, and subsequently the readers, would seek answers from Dr Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukherjee, P. Chidambaram, T.K.A. Nair, Pulok Chatterjee, D.S. Mathur, Siddhartha Behura, Vinnie Mahajan, besides Sunil Mittal and scores of others whose names are mentioned prominently in the saga.
Raja has been harshest on Vinod Rai, who he claims could have been acting at the instance of those who wanted his government to be both discredited and thereby eased out. He has stated, “issues that were paraded as pearls gleaned from the ocean of the CAG’s report were not even so many specks of sand”. In fact, Rai’s words and actions are “malicious vigilantism that makes mockery of his constitutional responsibilities, disgraceful purchase of self promotion at the cost of truth and integrity, wanton sacrifice of national progress to further perverted political goals and corrupt commercialism couched in moral rhetoric and veiled altruism”. He has claimed that the post-retirement benefits that have come Rai’s way are proof enough that he was close to the BJP, and therefore his political masters had sufficiently rewarded him for “being the conscience of the nation”.
Raja’s book has created a political storm of sorts, and within the Congress, several leaders have been trying to ascertain how Rai had been made the CAG if his association with the BJP was something which was known to the power establishment. Some say that Rai’s name was recommended by Chidambaram, while others believe that it could be some other person occupying a pivotal position in the higher echelons of the government.
A story that is doing the rounds in bureaucratic circles is that shortly before he was to retire from the Finance Ministry, Rai had hosted a dinner at his residence where he had invited several top government functionaries, including T.K.A. Nair, K.M. Chandrasekhar and Pulok Chatterjee. Being a Kerala cadre officer, Rai shared a close proximity with the Kerala lobby, which was extremely influential during the UPA regime; Nair was a Malayali and Chandrasekhar, the Cabinet Secretary like Rai himself, was from the same cadre, though two years his senior. The general consensus at the dinner was that Rai should be suitably accommodated in the government. Within a short span of time, he was appointed the CAG. It is obvious that his formal selection must have been backed by top functionaries of the UPA, including Sonia Gandhi.
Therefore, for Raja to say that Rai was a BJP mole would sound incredulous. However, once the scam broke out and notional losses were put into public domain, the BJP, like any opposition party, naturally jumped at the opportunity to derive whatever political benefits it could obtain. The entire Anna Hazare movement was built around this presumptive figure, which shook the very foundations of the Manmohan Singh government and thus resulting in the Congress being voted out of power.
Undoubtedly, some Congress politicians may have attempted to rock their own government with the belief that it could result in the change of leadership, thereby paving the way for a new Prime Minister from among the party’s top leaders. This did not happen since Sonia Gandhi did not repose trust in anyone other than her chosen Prime Minister and so allowed matters to drift. However, the primary question remains that if decisions were taken collectively, as Raja claims in his book, then why was he the only one who bore the brunt? Were others not accountable for their actions? The truth, however, may never come out. Between us.