The Commonwealth Blames.

The Government has tried to seize the initiative on the Commonwealth Games enquiry, but with the clever overlap of multiple agencies and the IT raids to deflect attention, it looks like the Congress Party is already dictating the terms of reference for the probe. So, is the PM under pressure to scuttle the probe ?

Now that the proverbial dust has settled on the execution of the fault-ridden games, it is time for another execution – guillotine, if you please, that would finally settle the real scores. To that extent the declarations of intent by the Government of India are laudatory but, as always, discreetly deceptive. The clamour for a Comptroller Auditor General’s [CAG] enquiry into the games expenditures and the award of contracts to dubious ends is all very well but if we travel back just a few months back we are apprised of an ugly spat caused when the Chief Minister of Delhi openly berated the CAG of India when it indicted her government on various counts of financial irregularities particularly in the procurement of low floor buses and the hand outs to a private builder for building the Games village. I remember noting at the point that it was an unprecedented assault on a constitutional body set up for the establishment of probity and I now wonder what effect that same body will now have on the same CM if it were to have the temerity to indict her government again. Add to that the CVC enquiry, the IT raids and the CBI intervention that is being proposed and you have already set the stage for enough complex interdepartmental play to lay grounds for a convenient fait accompli. But as if that was not enough, the PM has – wisely for who wants an investigation you can’t control – now indicated another oversight committee headed by, to make things adequately worse, a former CAG himself. That should effectively seal any chances of any truth seeping out of the labyrinthine network of investigations declared by this Government. Which begs the question, is the PM really serious about establishing blame or is he covering up for his Congress colleagues.

 The draft for an enquiry: more than graft.

Notwithstanding the view of the BJP insinuating involvement of the PMO in the scandalous affair, although why should we be surprised, the fact remains that Mr. Kalmadi is merely an actor to his masters in the Congress Party. It would be patently childish to assume that he exists in a power vacuum with no strings attached. Mr. Kalmadi’s continuation in office and his resilient terms in the IOA are definite indicators of an old and established network of beneficiaries, direct or indirect who have gained from his continued tenure and largesse. It is also not without basis that many Congressmen would like the vilification campaign against Mr. Kalmadi to be pitched even higher because in that screeching atmosphere the attention from others is conveniently drowned. But we know that Mr. Kalmadi is only the tip of the iceberg. If anyone is interested in unearthing anything, the investigations must start with the PMO down to the administrative instruments like the DDA, the MCD, PWD, NDMC and all parties involved in the planning of the games and the award of contracts. Otherwise it is a real possibility that this could fast degenerate into an accountant’s audit when in fact the trend of the investigations should be to establish what caused us to falter at the finish line – and as anyone who has run a sprint will tell you, it always comes back to the starting block. Above all, it must be done swiftly and it must cover the more criminal act of all: the purposeful delays and the dubious spending decisions. Finally, it must account for not only the loss to the exchequer due to corruption and overspend, but it must also settle the costs of the damage to India’s image globally.

Creating the conditions for corruption. And seeking a compliant Sports Minister.

 The next clear escape route that the spate of investigations ordered by the Government concerns the people who created the enabling conditions for corruption to fester. As things stand. there are no indications that they are going to be within the ambit of the probe. But that is where the PMO seeks to come under suspicion, for it is precisely those people who were given the job of planning and implementing the games schedule who by either dereliction of duty, or nefarious intent, delayed their actions with the express intent of pushing through massive expenditure budgets without due diligence or by superseding administrative and procedural scrutiny. It is common knowledge in projects of public expenditure that governmental agencies try and shortchange public discourse, engagement or consultation. A case in point is the manner in which the Delhi Urban Arts Commission’s [DUAC] role progressively came to be seen as obstructionist with each passing day of missed schedules until the DUAC’s critical observations simply went out of the window – with the sanction of the highest authorities in Government. In effect an oversight committee was defanged to suit the then-delayed schedules of the project proponents – to whose happy ends, we all know. Who doesn’t like to be unaccountable! The step-motherly treatment meted out to the Sports Ministry by the PM should also not be lost on anybody. It must be a record of sorts that in a single term of government we saw three Ministers shuffling out and in: First Sunil Dutt, and after his demise, Oscar Fernandes, who was replaced by Mani Shankar Aiyar in 2006 and finally M.S. Gill when Aiyar became a hot potato. Just the sort of attitude that indicts the PM for lack of foresight and seriousness and raises suspicions as to what he was looking for in his Sports Ministers – quiet compliance?

Dixit, Kalmadi and Reddy: The 3-D vision  for investigations.

It is imperative that while Mr. Kalmadi and group are investigated, the two other ends to the troika of overspend – the Chief Minister of Delhi, Ms. Shiela Dixit and the Minister of Urban Development, Mr. Jaipal Reddy are not spared. Both parties were in control of sums much larger than those earmarked for the OC and they have played the most with this money. In one qualified instance, the Delhi Government misappropriated close to Rs. 700 crores meant for SC/ST upliftment and diverted it to the games expenditure. Ditto for the DDA under Mr. Reddy, which is guilty of having spent vulgar amounts to spruce up tony NDMC areas without much by way of reason or rationale, while the rest of the city suffers interminably with bad roads, poor sanitation and lousy public transport. The emphatic consonantal sound of their names gives rise to the three D’s that we need examined before a clear picture emerges. The CM of Delhi also stands accused of taking no interest whatsoever in the games until the last minute because [and this is corroborated by members of her own party and media persons close to her] she expected to lose the assembly elections and thought this would be someone else’s headache. Prior to that, her attention was taken up with the preparation for the assembly elections with the result that between 2007 and 2008 nothing substantial moved and precious preparatory time was lost. To his credit, the only person who exhibited continuity was Mr. Kalmadi and the OC, while the CM and the PM were busy preparing for the assembly and the Lok Sabha elections respectively.

If you want to get to the bottom if this, you will have to go Aiyar.

The chaos and corruption that the CWG spawned could have been either remedied or completely avoided had not the original actor played true to character. Mani Shankar Aiyar, appointed Minister of S&YA in 2006 not only jinxed the preparations, he categorically challenged his PM and the cabinet at almost every stage. After the flying start provided by the NDA Government and the fine work exhibited by the then Sports Minsiter Vikram Verma in carrying everybody along in the pitch, the one person who muddied the waters was Mr. Aiyar. His obdurate opposition to executing his brief and his mandate as Minster and in effect his job, will do down as a shining piece of rebellion sustained down to the last stages of the games, even as a non-actor, with the blessings of his party. That charge holds – because for a politician who has only recently lost his election and groveled at No.10 Janpath to be accommodated in the Rajya Sabha and who was finally ‘back-doored in’ with the dubious distinction of being an intellectual could not possibly sustain his tirade without a signal from someone up there. So what was going on? Who sustained Mr. Kalmadi ? And who was Mr. Aiyar’s puppeteer? Why couldn’t a party with a command structure more akin to a Mafiosi operation silence Aiyar in time and in fact punish him for his inept management of the job. Why indeed was he allowed such a long rope in sullying India’s image at every stage of the games preparation, down to the curtain call. If they could find that out, instead of raiding bit-part contractors who delivered to pre-set tender terms, maybe, just maybe, we could fix the blames for the games.


Image Credit: World News Network

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