The indictment of the Congress government by two key constitutional bodies in the multi-million relief scandal will not only dent its credibility but will cost the party heavily in the 2017 assembly elections, say analysts.
The State Information Commission (SIC) and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) have indicted the Harish Rawat government for squandering money while the people in the state were suffering, they said.
Last week, Rawat had ordered an inquiry into alleged inflated and forged bills submitted by state government officials during the relief works of 2013 floods. The scam had surfaced during a hearing carried out by state information commission after a RTI petitioner had submitted documents showing massive irregularities.
Observers say that chief minister Rawat will never regain his lost credibility if he sticks to his stand of not ordering a CBI probe into the relief scam.
"Such a stand will cost the ruling party heavily in the next assembly election, thanks to the Rawat government's indictment by two top legal bodies on the issue of the multi-million relief scam," said professor MC Sati of HNB Garhwal Central University.
The CAG indicted the state government for “napping” when the devastating floods hit the state in June 2013. It also referred to the irregularities in distributing relief among the disaster-hit villages in the aftermath of the natural calamity.
Earlier, state information commissioner AK Sharma, in his report, had referred to the inflated bills submitted by officials during relief work of the 2013 floods.
Sharma had recommended a CBI probe into the "potential" multi-million rupees scam.
The chief minister rejected the SIC's recommendation, saying a CBI probe "can't be ordered into officials gorging on fish or butter chickens".
Rawat's out-an-out rejection of a CBI probe into the relief scam has also evoked a sharp reaction from analysts.
"The CM's rejection of the SIC's proposal for a CBI probe clearly means that he is scared that such a probe will completely expose his government on the issue of the relief scam," said MM Semwal, another professor at the university.
"Obviously, he would not want such a situation to crop up as it would end up harming the prospects of his party (the Congress) in the next assembly election," he told Hindustan Times.
Semwal dubbed the chief secretary-level inquiry ordered by the chief minister into the relief scam as a mere eyewash. "Rawat ordered such a probe so as to protect his officials and perhaps his ministers who might also be involved in the multi-million relief scam," he added.
Semwal's colleague, YP Sindriyal said the relief scam has literally become a millstone around the chief minister's neck. "The CM can't escape his responsibility of ordering a CBI probe because after the SIC and the CAG has put his government in the dock on the issue of the irregularities relating to the relief works, post 2013 floods," Sundriyal said.
Analysts are unanimous that there had been "massive bungling" of several thousand crores of relief funds that poured in from all sides after the floods.
"Had those (relief) funds been fully used, the entire infrastructure -- roads, bridges, and link roads -- that had been washed away by the devastating flash floods would've been rebuilt by now," Sundriyal added.
"However, only a cosmetic exercise was undertaken in the name of reconstruction. Besides, a number of disaster hit people went without monetary relief that was illegally distributed among those who were not even remotely affected by the natural calamity," Semwal added.