Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Tag: India

CAG and constitution

It is strange that former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) V. K. Shunglu suggested that CAG be made a multi-member body. Narayanasamy, MoS in PMO said the government is actively considering it and later retracted.

V. K. Shunglu had submitted six reports on Commonwealth Games. The government implemented first report which was against B. S. Lalli. Other reports which were against Sheila Dikshit and others were not implemented.

About CAG, V. K. Shunglu had suggested that a three-member body would obtain greater transparency in operation. Was there not enough transparency when Shunglu was CAG?

Former CEC S. Y. Quraishi said CAG will become more powerful if it has more than one member. The fact is additional members are appointed to make Election Commission fall in line with government. One CEC had problem with Navin Kohli who was then Election Commissioner. The CEC did not want Navin Kohli to succeed him as CED but UPA government appointed him as CEC.

The constitution provides for CAG as one person and Election Commission as a body headed by CEC. Articles 148-151 deal with CAG, duties and powers, accounts, and audit reports. Article 148 is clear that CAG is one person. There is no provision for multi-member CAG.

Article 324 deals with Election Commission. It states, among other things, “The Election Commission shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners, if any, as the President may from time to time fix…” CEC is enough. ECs are optional. For a long time India had only CEC. In 1989 Rajiv Gandhi government appointed two ECs. Rajiv Gandhi was unhappy with R. V. S. Peri Sastry. When V. P. Singh government came to power they removed the two ECs. When T. N. Seshan became CEC he took decisions that favoured Congress. Janata Dal wanted his removal. P. V. Narasimha Rao promised that but did not keep his promise. Later T. N. Seshan became a problem for Congress. Then Congress government appointed two ECs. As the governments changed they continued with Election Commission as a three-member body. They promoted ECs as CECs and brought as ECs people who thought were suitable for them. Sometimes the calculations went wrong.

UPA is unhappy with Vinod Rai as CAG. Previous CAGs were quiet. Vinod Rai said the brazenness with which the decisions are taken is appalling. Amending the constitution to curb CAG’s powers is not easy for UPA. CAG is a constitutional functionary. There is no bar on him holding press conferences, giving interviews, blogging, or tweeting.

Death of Lal Bahadur Shastri

Many people believe India’s Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri died of poisoning on 11/1/1966 and not of heart attack as officially mentioned. They think T. N. Kaul, then India’s ambassador to USSR, poisoned Lal Bahadur Shastri so that Indira Gandhi can become prime minister.

On 2/10/2012 Karan Razdan raised to topic about Shastri’s death in The Last Word on CNN-IBN. Inder Malhotra, Kuldip Nayar and Anil Shastri were panelists. Kuldip Nayar mentioned reasons for suspicion. Questions were raised in Lok Sabha. T. N. Kaul phoned up to Kuldip Nayar and asked him to deny there was poisoning. Shastri’s thermos went missing. There was a commission to inquire about the death. Shastri’s doctor died in an accident the day before he was to depose before the commission. Shastri’s personal assistant died a similar death. The implication is that they were murdered.

Inder Malhotra in his column Rear View in The Indian Express dt. 17/9/2012 has written that in 1965, relations between Shastri and Indira Gandhi became strained almost to the point of breaking. She had upstaged him during language riots by going to Madras. She had said “Do you think this government can survive if I resign today. I am telling you it won’t. Yes, I have jumped over the prime minister’s head and I would do it again whenever the need arises.” On 31/12/1965 Finance Minister T. T. Krishnamachari came to Indira Gandhi’s house to say he has resigned in sheer disgust. Indira Gandhi said “I will be the next to be thrown out. It is not a cabinet worth staying in.”

Shastri was cremated. If he had been buried, his body could have been exhumed and tested for poisoning. T. N. Kaul and Indira Gandhi are dead. It is 46 years since the death. It is difficult to find out about poisoning but not impossible. People in Tashkent or Moscow can shed light on the case. There are detectives who deal with cold cases who can find out some clues and solve the case.

Sonia Gandhi travel expenses

How much money has been spent on Sonia Gandhi’s foreign tours? Narendra Modi quoted a figure of 1,880 crore rupees from Gujarati newspaper Jaihind dt. 12/7/2012. RTI activist Ramesh Verma had filed an application in 2010 and there was no reply. Congress has attacked Modi but no reply on how much was spent and why the delay in reply.

Someone said the figure of 1,880 crore rupees is absurd, it is several times the figure of space travel of Virgin Atlantic. Absurd things happen in India. Commonwealth Games were supposed to cost few hundred crores rupees. It went up to 1,02,000 crores.

Sonia Gandhi’s travel includes people who accompany her; her son, daughter, son-in-law, grandchildren and security guards. Sometimes she has led delegations to other countries. Once she went to Russia. If the planes were chartered, expenses would have been more. In what capacity did Sonia Gandhi spend public money? As an MP? As chairperson of UPA? As chairperson of NAC? When public money is spent people have a right to know how it is spent.

There may be something embarrassing about expenses. Questions may be raised about expenses on family members. That may be the reason why government does not want to reply to RTI question and Congress is unwilling to face the question.

CIC said government did not spend money on Sonia Gandhi’s medical expenses in August-September 2011. Nothing was said about travel expenses.

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