Of 2g scam and CAG: ‘The innuendos kept coming’

The CAG reports had very limited circulation and maybe some media and MPs have access to it. I felt that I must write in very simple language about five major issues that have caught the public imagination and lend it wider circulation. More importantly, the five subjects are five case studies.

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The UPA’s debacle in the 2014 Lok Sabha election was accompanied by what amounted to a “book attack” on the erstwhile government and the Congress,with tell-all books such as former media advisor to Manmohan Singh, Sanjaya Baru’s The Accidental Prime Minister; Natwar Singh’s One Life is not Enough and former Coal Secretary P C Parakh’s Crusader or Conspirator? Coalgate and Other Truths making very damaging assertions about the government, the party and their leadership. The latest book to spill the beans on the UPA is former Comptroller and Auditor General Vinod Rai’s Not Just an Accountant – The Diary of the Nation’s Conscience Keeper (Rupa Publishers). Rai’s apolitical stand givest he chronicle more authenticity. The former CAG, who has a degree in public administration from Havard University, is considered to be a symbol of the anti-corruption movement and is credited with having turned the office of CAG into a powerhouse of accountability and transparency. In his book, Rai has delved into the 2G spectrum scam and coal block allocations.

In an interview with SUCHAYAN MANDAL, Rai explained how and why he wrote the book.

Why did you write this tell all book?
Well, when I retired in May last year, I really had no intention of writing a book of this kind. Normally, my career span being vast, once I leave a job I cut the umbilical cord with it and move on. I close that chapter. With the CAG saga behind me, I had thought I might move on. But unfortunately, I found that six months later somehow or other the innuendos kept coming against the CAG or the establishment. I noticed that within the country, the innuendos and statements of very senior peronalities on the institution of the CAG were not dying down and a very incorrect picture was being given. When this picture was given, lots of my colleagues and good friends from my department suggested I write something on these issues to set the record straight. This happened in September-October last year. This was demoralising for the officers. That’s when I decided to write the book.

The CAG reports had very limited circulation and maybe some media and MPs have access to it. I felt that I must write in very simple language about five major issues that have caught the public imagination and lend it wider circulation. More importantly, the five subjects are five case studies.

The types of failures are variable. In some place there is failure of leadership, some place there is no model of governance,procedures aren’t followed. So like this I’ve taken up the issues.

You have been accused of being a sensationalist bent on promoting and selling your book. Your reaction?
I have never reacted to anything that came up like this in media. When someone says I am sensationalising, I feel he/she is unable to counter my argument. So whoever says so is trying to be personal.

Taking on the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,you have charged that he could have stopped both the 2G and Coalgate scams from happening if he had chosen to act promptly. Does this not question Mr Singh’s integrity?
No. I haven’t charged him like that. I have only mentioned the spectrum case. The Union Minister of Telecom wrote two letters to Singh. One, on 15 November, and another on 26 December 2007. In both the letters he has mentioned what he was trying to do. And in both the letters, the PM responded in a routine way just as an acknowledgment. Now
when the Finance Ministry, Law Ministry, Ministry of Commerce, all were writing that let these issues be brought before GoM (Group of Ministers) my point was that on 3 January when the PM responded to the 26 December letter, he should have written, “Please do not take any precipitate action till we or the GoM (group of ministers)have discussed this” instead of giving a go-ahead to Raja for going ahead by himself. That could have changed the fate of UPA 2. In the coal issue I don’t think I have put any blame on him other than the fact that the captain of the team always takes some blame for the happenings in the team.

A section of the Congress believes that they lost the Lok Sabha elections not because of Mr Narendra Modi but because of you.Would you take it as a compliment?
(Laughs) I can only say they need to look inwards. Why search for lame excuses? They
lost because of their own performance. I wouldn’t like to comment on this. I think it requiresmuch more internal introspection for any of the political parties to do, I am not naming anybody for why the result came the way it did.

Will you ever join politics? Don’t you think a thorough clean-up is also required in our political system and you could play a role there?
No, I won’t join politics. I agree 100 per cent that clean up is necessary. Politics also has good people and also it requires good people. But I am just not cut out for it. Everyone needs some kind of competence for things he needs to do. I am not made for politics.

What will be your message to the Modi government?
I am too small a man to give a message to the government. He has promised better governance and I hope that comes out to be true.

Published in The Statesman, 2014.

Image credit: Wikipedia