New Delhi: A day after the clumsy flip flop of the government over the proposal to make the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) a multi-member body, the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and anti-corruption crusader Arvind Kejriwal on Monday accused the UPA of trying of suppress the constitutional auditing body. Following the attack, the Congress, in yet another flip flop, indicated that the government would not go in for changes in the auditor's institutional mechanism based on the "activities of a person".
Earlier on Monday, the BJP hit out at the Manmohan Singh-led government, accusing it of trying to undermine the institution of CAG. He pointed that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said that the observations of the constitutional body could be challenged.
Addressing a press conference, former BJP president Venkaiah Naidu said, "They are trying to undermine the institution of CAG. The PM had earlier asserted that the observations of CAG are disputable and will be challenged before the Public Accounts Committee. How can the Prime Minister say that the observations of CAG can be challenged? PAC is a committee set up by Parliament and its proceedings cannot be dominated."
In another attack, anti-corruption crusader-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal accused the UPA government of trying to make the CAG its agent. He argued for CAG appointments to be independent and wants neither the government nor the Opposition to have a say in the selection process.
He said, "When the CAG is coming out with strong reports against the government, it is trying to weaken the CAG by making it multi-member. I think what is extremely important is that today, the selection of CAG is completely in the hands of the government, it selects the CAG and appoints the CAG...we feel it should be made completely independent of politicians, even Opposition should not have a role in deciding the selection of CAG."
However, the Congress tried to downplay the opposition pointing that when the Election Commission was turned into a multi-level body, it had really stood well.
Later, in an apparent bid to deny any rift with CAG Vinod Rai, the Congress denied suggestions that he had become a pain in the neck for the ruling dispensation. Congress spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit told reporters that the CAG is the "companion" of the government.
"I don't think government will take institutional measures based on the activities of a person", he said when asked whether the Government was contemplating making CAG a multi-member body changes in view of allegations by the party accusing Rai of "going beyond the mandate" in reports on 2G and coal blocks allocations.
The controversy was sparked by Minister of State in the PMO V Narayanasamy, who had talked about government planning to make CAG a multi-member body. However, the minister had later sought to retract his comments on this issue.
Dikshit, who was subjected to a volley of questions on the issue, said the Minister has clarified that he was "misquoted and misunderstood" and "I have no reason to doubt what Narayanasamy has said".
"CAG is a companion of the government. It is part and parcel of the government. CAG is not pain in the neck for anyone. It gives an opinion, right or wrong, which is sent to the Public Accounts Committee for consideration. "Unfortunately, CAG has given some reports which give an impression that (something is wrong between the CAG and government)."
At the same time, he made it clear that the Congress has "no stand" on the matter and it was for the Government to decide. "Right now, there is no stand. Constitution speaks of one CAG. Shunglu Commission has given report.....making CAG a multi-member body is a recommendation of the Committee. It is for the Government to look into it or not."
The Congress reaction came close on the heels of BJP threatening that any move to dilute CAG's authority would be seriously opposed by the party inside and outside Parliament.
(With Additional Inputs from PTI)