The political battle over the alleged AugustaWestland chopper deal just got shriller. The ruling BJP has taken on the chairman of parliament’s public accounts committee (PAC) for “conveniently” nominating Congress MP Shantaram Naik to head the panel’s sub-group that will also look into the 2013 helicopter bribery scandal.
Naik, a Rajya Sabha member, was named as the head of the PAC’s sub-group on defence last week--a move that the BJP suspects was aimed at insulating the previous UPA government and its ministers. As chairman, Naik would get to decide when and how the sub-group would deal with the CAG.
The PAC scrutinises accounts of the government and reports of the Comptroller & Auditor General of India to examine if public money was spent rightly and within the scope mandated.
“We have made our views known to (PAC chairman) KV Thomas,” a BJP MP told HT after Tuesday’s stormy meeting of the high-powered committee. “This is not how you run important committees.”
The BJP is insisting that the PAC take up the CAG report on VVIP chopper deal, which ran into controversy during the UPA-2 tenure over alleged payment of bribe by the Italian company to secure the contract.
At Tuesday’s meeting, BJP MPs, including Anurag Thakur and Nishikant Dubey pointed out that despite being the only Congress member, besides the chairman of the 21 member panel, Naik was given the charge of such a crucial sub-committee. The BJP has eight members in the panel, while it has got chairmanship of two out of the five sub-groups.
Outside, BJP MPs told HT that they wanted the panel to get to the bottom of the chopper scam, and feared Naik’s appointment was a ploy to delay probe. “We have a reason for it: there are precedents. When a Congress member delayed probe into the irregularities committed in preparation of the commonwealth games, meetings were no held for months. We fear a repeat of that,” said another BJP member of the panel.
Members of the ruling party argued at the meeting that every decision in the PAC is taken through a consensus, but they were not consulted on such a “crucial” appointment. The chairman argued that it was his prerogative to appoint heads of the sub-group, but assured the members to get back to them after fresh consultations.