Dec 202011

How much of a role did the then Union finance minister P Chidambaram have in the controversial contracts that were awarded by the Organising Committee, currently under a CBI investigation, in the Commonwealth Games?

Documents accessed from the prime minister’s office (PMO) under the RTI Act by advocate and activist Vivek Garg and shared with DNA show that Chidambaram had been tasked to “supervise and deal with all financial matters” by a Group of Ministers in the run-up to the games.

A letter, authored by the then human resource development minister Arjun Singh has now surfaced to haunt the scam-ridden UPA, and could spell more trouble for the beleaguered Union home minister. Interestingly, the letter addressed to PM Manmohan Singh on January 26, 2005 states that a “consensus” on all issues related to the CWG was “reached in the presence of the Hon’ble Congress President, Smt. Sonia Gandhi.” It is not understood why the Congress President was present at a meeting of the GoM for an issue that was purely in the domain of the Union cabinet. The PM acknowledged Singh’s letter on February 1, 2005.

The late Arjun Singh enclosed a copy of the “decisions of the GoM” that was held in January 2005. This is the period that the CBI is currently investigating, following the arrest of OC chairman Suresh Kalmadi and his colleagues. But the opposition leaders have been alleging for a long time that the responsibility for the CWG mess should also be pinned on other senior Congress leaders. The issue came up a few months ago when the Comptroller and Auditor General of India released its report on the CWG games, in which it speaks of a financial loss of nearly Rs2,342 crore, as well as slip-ups on deadlines and the poor quality of work carried out.

The CWG games have also come in for severe criticism from within the Congress party, with the former sports minister Mani Shankar Aiyer also calling the games a waste of precious public resources. Many of the controversial financial decisions of the OC, it now seems, according to the GoM, was to be supervised and dealt with by Chidambaram’s sub-committee.

However, the CBI is yet to seek any information from the Union home minister on his or the sub-committee’s role in the CWG deals which are currently under investigation.

Congress spokesman Rashid Alvi told DNA: “I have not seen the documents myself. The late Arjun Singh should have been the best person to clarify about what he wrote. All that I can say is that what Arjun Singh said at that time is irrelevant in the present circumstances.”

When contacted by DNA, a senior BJP leader, unwilling to be identified, said that Chidambaram’s role in CWG ought to be investigated because the home minister, who was the finance minister in 2005, was the “final arbitrator on financial matters related to the games.” According to the BJP leader, the issue of Chidambaram’s “association” with the Games is likely to be raised by the Opposition when Parliament resumes on Monday. via

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