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Cong Pressured Me On Manmohan, Says Rai; Utter Lie, Says Nirupam

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Even after retirement, former CAG vinod Rai continues to haunt the Congress. On Thursday (11 September), Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam rejected as an "outright lie" the claim by Rai that along with party members Sandeep Dikshit and Ashwani Kumar he had sought to put pressure on the chief auditor to keep the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's name out of the reports on the 2G and coal-block allocations.

In an interview to 'Times Now', Rai had claimed that the then Congress MPs, including Sandeep Dikshit, Sanjay Nirupam and Ashwani Kumar, had sought to put pressure on him to keep the Prime Minister's name out of the said CAG reports.

"That was a futile attempt," Rai said.

Rejecting the charge, Nirupam said, "Rai has told an outright lie. I never talked to him. I challenge his memory and want to remind him that I never met him."

The All India Congress Committee secretary also claimed he had strongly criticised the CAG at the meetings of the Murli Manohar Joshi-led Public Accounts Committee, which was examining the audit watchdog's report on the 2G Spectrum allocation.

"I also want to remind him that I had attacked the CAG strongly at the PAC meeting and said that the report was a total fraud and politically motivated. I had also said that the CAG should be interrogated by PAC. But Joshiji did not allow it," Nirupam said.

Rai, whose loss estimates in 2G spectrum and coal block allocations pushed the then United Progressive Aalliance (UPA) government into a corner, was also critical of the coalition politics under Singh and suggested that he was more interested in remaining in power.

"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," he told the Outlook magazine.

He was asked what was his understanding of the former PM's psychology, considering that many viewed Singh as an elder statesman.

The Comptroller and Auditor General estimated the government lost about $39 billion during the 2008 telecoms permits sale process.

The CAG report in 2012 found that underpriced sales of coal blocks over the years had cost the exchequer as much as $33 billion.

The Supreme Court recently said that some 200 coal block allocations made since 1993 were unlawful and arbitrary.

Rai, who is writing a book on his days as the CAG, said his phone was tapped by the then UPA government and he felt Singh was part of the decisions to allocate 2G telecom spectrum on first-cum-first serve basis and coal blocks without auction.

The Comptroller and Auditor General estimated the government lost about $29 billion during a 2008 telecoms permits sale process.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has said bribes were paid to ensure favours for certain firms in 2007 and 2008 when the government issued 122 new licences to offer mobile phone services in the world's fastest growing telecoms market.

According to CAG, many licences were issued to firms who were ineligible, or who had no prior experience in the sector.

"...in 2G and coal there is no way he (Singh) can shirk responsibility. In 2G all the letters written by (then telecom minister) A Raja (Andimuthu 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 said.

Some of India's top politicians, business names and companies came under scrutiny over the scandal. Raja, who has denied wrongdoing, was forced resign and was arrested over the report.

A parliamentary committee in its report cleared the prime minister of wrongdoing, saying Singh was misled by the then telecommunications minister.

(Agencies)