The row over alleged financial bungling in DDCA resonated in Parliament on Monday with BJP member Kirti Azad embarrassing the ruling side by demanding time-bound SIT probe while Congress pressed for resignation of finance minister Arun Jaitley who dismissed charges against him as “baseless” and “wrong”.
Congress staged a walkout in Lok Sabha which was led by party chief Sonia Gandhi.
While the Rajya Sabha was adjourned repeatedly over the issue, in the Lok Sabha, Kirti Azad, a known detractor of Jaitley, egged on Congress to seek a time-bound SIT probe. Congress members were already shouting slogans in the Well, demanding resignation of Jaitley, who formerly headed the DDCA.
Ruling out Jaitley’s resignation, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said that the finance minister is known for his “impeccable character, honesty and maintaining high standards in public life”.
Jaitley, on his part, said, “The charges (against me) are baseless and wrong. This is all I have to say.”
The Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) report did not find any fault with the expenditure and “accepted” the cost incurred, he said while giving a detailed account of the construction work at Ferozshah Kotla ground which is under scanner.
Kirti Azad was apparently not impressed by Jaitley’s defence that SFIO probe found nothing wrong, saying it had looked only into the civil matters and that recently a CBI had issued a notice to DDCA.
The issue was raised in the Lok Sabha by K C Venugopal of Congress who claimed that there were “gross irregularities” in Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) when Jaitley headed it and alleged his involvement.
He said the construction work at Ferozshah Kotla had cost Rs 114 cr against the estimate of Rs 24 cr and alleged that it was “forced escalation” and “there was no record of tender” in many cases.
“A laptop was hired for Rs 36,000 for a day, printer for Rs 3000 and a ‘puja ki thali’ for Rs 5,000 for a day. 14 companies did not exist or information about them was not correct,” Venugopal alleged.
Making a reference to Kirti Azad’s press conference yesterday, he said the BJP MP gave “solid evidence” of irregularities in DDCA.
“He (Jaitley) is also involved in the scam. We demand a JPC probe and resignation of Jaitley,” he said.
The Finance Minister immediately rose to reply and gave a detailed account of the expenditure incurred on the construction work and contrasted it with the much-higher cost of renovating Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium and Dhyanchand National Stadium during the Congress-led UPA tenure.
While noting that it cost Rs 114 cr to build Kotla stadium, which was merely a “field” prior to the construction, Jaitley attacked Congress, saying the Nehru stadium was renovated at a cost of Rs 900 cr and the Dhyanchand stadium for Rs 600 cr.
The Kotla stadium has a seating capacity of 42000, the Dhyanchad staidum steats only 14000 people.
As Congress members began their protest in the midst of his reply, an upset Jaitley asked them to sit down, saying “you should have courage to listen. Why do you find my reply so inconvenient? It is not a charge against you.”
Accusing the opposition of dragging the Finance Minister’s name for “short term politics”, Naidu said Jaitley had “no role” in the alleged irregularities.
Taking a dig at Congress, he said Jaitley was not a minister in 2013 when the irregularities were found, noting that it was Congress which was in power then.
He said several cricketers had only yesterday “paid compliments” to Jaitley for the work he has done in promoting the cause of the game.
Congress staged a walkout, inviting loud boos from the treasury benches.