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UPA pressured me to drop names from CAG reports: Vinod Rai

Author: Pradeep Thakur, TNN
Publication: The Times of India
Date: August 24, 2014
URL: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/UPA-pressured-me-to-drop-names-from-CAG-reports-Vinod-Rai/articleshow/40825032.cms?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=referral

The Congress leadership is headed for a fresh spell of embarrassment with former Comptroller and Auditor General Vinod Rai making the damning disclosure that UPA functionaries deputed politicians to get him to leave out names from the auditor's reports on Coalgate and Commonwealth Games scams.

 "Politicians came to my home and told me not to name some people and to protect some others in connection with the CWG and coal allocation reports," Rai told TOI offering an exclusive peep into his much-awaited recollection of his tumultuous tenure as the federal auditor.

 Rai, who spoke to TOI on the sidelines of a book launch function, revealed that "Not Just An Accountant", set to be released on September 15, will also provide details of how sheer considerations of survival led the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to acquiesce to decisions which caused huge loss to the exchequer.

"See the PM is the primus inter pares or the first among equals. He has to take the last call which sometimes he did, sometime he didn't," Rai said. The former CAG, who was attacked by Congress for his reports on scams — from 2G and Commonwealth to Coalgate — dodged a direct response when asked whether the swindles could have been averted if Manmohan had exercised his authority as PM. "I cannot tell you how I have put it in the book but very frankly I have discussed the action taken or not taken by the functionaries whose responsibility it was to take decision at the appropriate time, including those on whose desk the buck finally stopped."

However, he did indicate that his forthcoming book will have details of how the ex-PM succumbed to what he himself once described as 'compulsions of coalition politics'. "Everything cannot be sacrificed only to remain in power. Governance cannot be sacrificed at the altar of compulsion of coalition politics, I have said it in the book," he said.

 Rai's book will only be the latest in a series of tell-all tales which portray Manmohan as an ineffectual PM -- a narrative which influenced 2014 Lok Sabha polls and contributed to Congress's worst-ever performance. Former coal secretary P C Parakh, Manmohan's own media advisor Sanjaya Baru and one-time close confidant of Nehru-Gandhi family, former external affairs minister Natwar Singh have come out with similar accounts.

On the lobbying by senior UPA functionaries to ensure that they did not figure in CAG's reports on scams under Rai, the former federal auditor said: "Some messages we did receive, something I have spoken about in the book." However, he refused to disclose names of the emissaries or their principals.

 Rai, who was from the Indian Administrative Service, said UPA functionaries roped in even his colleagues to persuade him to leave out names. "My colleagues were encouraged to talk to me, my colleagues meaning bureaucrats."

 However, the federal auditor said it was during the meetings of the Parliament's Public Accounts Committee that he came under tremendous pressure.

 "But the real pressure which came to me was in Parliament, during the Public Accounts Committee meeting," the former CAG said in an obvious reference to the tough, often hostile questions he had to endure from Congress members of PAC.

 CAG's reports under Rai on scams stained UPA's legacy, giving rise to the perception of sleaze which helped BJP in the elections.

 "It's a frank tell-all-tale, not with the intention of finding fault but at the same time indicating the fault and suggesting remedial systematic changes so that it doesn't go wrong in the future."

The book consists of 15 chapters and has some interesting accounts of the former CAG's interaction with Manmohan Singh and other UPA functionaries. "When I am writing, I don't have to put it in a structured format as the CAG report generally is. Audit reports are bland reports. But this is an interesting account presented for the common man on how and what transpired during that period," Rai explained.
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