Sibal has right to comment on CAG report: Cong

New Delhi: Congress on Saturday stood behind Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal, who has criticised the report of CAG into 2G Spectrum scam, saying the minister concerned has a right to comment if thinks something is wrong with the report but refrained from committing that it was the party stand.

"I do not think he was undermining the authority of any constitutional body. He as a minister has the relevant papers.

If a wrong message has gone in the country with some report and he has documents to prove otherwise, he can express his views," party spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed told reporters.

At the same time, Ahmed remained non-committal on whether Sibal`s remark on CAG report is the party`s official stand, saying, "There is no question of backing or distancing from Sibal. Sibal as telecom minister has the relevant papers."

"Only he can explain on what basis he has commented on the arithmetics of the report. How can the party say what is right or wrong in the report. The party does not have these documents."

To a question on whether Sibal`s remarks suggest that the case against former telecom minister A Raja is factually wrong, he said, "Sibal has relevant papers. Only he is in a position to comment on internal matters of Telecom Ministry."

While the party officially backed Sibal, some leaders speaking on the condition of anonymity felt that it was not good for a government functionary to attack a constitutional body publicly in harsh terms.

Party leaders have earlier also been questioning the veracity of the CAG claims but it was for the first time that a government functionary went on record making a strident criticism of the CAG.

Sibal had yesterday said that there was "no loss at all" to the exchequer due to allocation of licences and 2G spectrum in 2008.

The period pertains to his predecessor A Raja who was forced to quit on the issue of alleged scam in spectrum allocation on which the Comptroller and Auditor General had come out with a report including the presumptive loss figure.

"We believe the exercise (by CAG) was fraught with very serious errors which resulted in a kind of sensationalism which has allowed the Opposition to spread utter falsehood to the people of India and we object to it…We are extremely pained at the methodology adopted by CAG. Some figures have no basis whatsoever," Sibal had told a press conference.

Reacting to the Telecom Minister`s contention that the presumptive losses projected by the CAG was "erroneous", BJP leader and Public Accounts Committee chairman M M Joshi said in Guwahati, "In my opinion, it is highly improper. The CAG has never said that it is the exact amount. Mr Sibal should have read the report carefully."

Asked to comment on Joshi`s statement, Ahmed said, "Documents are either with Sibal, who is Telecom Minister or or with Joshi. The party does not have any document. The party cannot say anything on it as the party has nothing to do with it. How can the party say what is factually correct and what is not."

A Congress leader on the condition of anonymity said that Sibal`s statements should be having a soothing effect on the party and this should have been done earlier.

The party is apparently eager to wipe out the taint of the opposition`s charge of "the biggest corruption in the country since independence" and there is a view that since Sibal is not an accused like Raja in the case and enjoys a clean image, he will be able to "place the correct facts".

Party spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed, however, refused to give a categorical answer on whether it was proper for a minister to publicly criticise the report of a constitutional body, saying "it is for government to comment upon it."

He at the same time hastened to add "CAG report is for scrutiny. Any MP or minister can raise question mark on CAG report based on the latter`s findings. If Sibal has said something based on documents, we do not think it is wrong on his part."

When asked whether the party is coming to the view that Raja`s resignation was ensured in a haste and it was not the kind of corruption it was made out to be, another senior leader said, "We are not defending Raja. Let there be a fair probe. But you cannot hang anybody just like that".

The 2G scam has become a major political issue with the opposition demanding a Joint Parliament Committee to probe it.

The demand, however, was rejected by the government leading to disruption of almost the entire Winter Session of Parliament.

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