Former prime minister Manmohan Singh was aware of the controversial decisions made around the allocation of coal blocks and 2G spectrums that led to massive losses to the state exchequer, Vinod Rai, the former chief auditor of India, said on Thursday.
In an interview to Times Now, Rai also alleged some Congress leaders had sought to apply pressure on him to keep the PM's name out of audit reports.
Rai’s comments are his first direct attack against Singh who has so far denied knowledge of the decisions made by his ministers, scandals that rocked his premiership and contributed to the ouster of the Congress party-led UPA government in the April-May Lok Sabha elections.
His allegations are completely baseless and untrue,I challenge his memory-Sanjay Nirupam,Cong on former CAG Vinod Rai pic.twitter.com/W79pAQ3ScW— ANI (@ANI_news) September 11, 2014
“In 2G and coal there is no way he can shirk responsibility,” Rai told the Outlook magazine in an interview published ahead of the September 15 launch of his tell-all book ‘Not Just An Accountant’.
“In 2G all the letters written by A Raja were to him and he was replying to those letters. I got no reply to any letter I wrote to him.
“On one occasion when I called on him, the PM said I hope you don’t expect a reply from me, whereas he was replying to Raja twice a day. So how can he be not held responsible for the onus of that decision?”
Rai, whose loss estimates in 2G spectrum and coal block allocations pushed the then UPA government into a corner, was also critical of the coalition politics under Manmohan Singh and suggested that the former PM was more interested in remaining in power.
Last month, Rai had said political exigency led the former PM to acquiesce to the controversial decisions which have since been ruled as illegal by court. The award of 2G spectrums has been cancelled by the Supreme Court, which is still hearing the case for scrapping the allocation of more than 200 coal blocks.
So far, the 81-year-old Singh, prime minister between 2004 and 2014, has been largely seen as a well-intentioned man of high personal integrity but one often unable to assert his authority.
Rai’s comments blow a hole into that image.
“Integrity is not just financial; it is intellectual integrity; it is professional integrity. You have an oath of allegiance to the constitution and that is important,” the former Comptroller and Accountant General (CAG) said.
“You cannot sacrifice everything at the altar of trying to ensure the coalition remains in power. That was his worry.”
Rai said Singh told him on 16 November that the CAG’s method of computation of the multi-billion dollar losses was wrong.
“I told him ‘Sir, these are the econometric methods that you have taught us’. This was sitting on the stage of Vigyan Bhavan.”
Read: Ex-CAG Rai claims 'outright lie', says Nirupam
Asked if at any stage he was offered support by the Gandhi family or the political establishment, Rai said: “I did not get a single reassuring signal either from the political machinery or the government, except one or two statements from Pranab Mukherjee.” He, however, hinted that the opposition supported the CAG.
As CAG, Rai issued a series of audit reports that upbraided Singh’s government for wasteful management or mismanagement of public resources and funds even as they brought corruption to light.
In the hands of the media and civil society, the audits became the most potent weapon for an overhaul in the way business is done in India, including spotlighting a shoddy method of governance that enriched the elite at the expense of the state.
Asked if he believed he rocked the UPA government, Rai said: “Yes, but that is okay. I am asking you a direct question – if the figure of Rs 176,000 crore had not been there how many of you would have taken note of the report?
So was the intention to put out a sexy figure?
“No, I wanted to put out an alarm signal that this was just a tip of the iceberg,” Rai said.