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Questions for Mr. Kalmadi
|by Dr. Rajinder Puri|
The first pointers about irregularities in the Commonwealth Games (CWG) preparations came from the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). They attracted little notice. The nation woke up when media revealed that British authorities had written to the Indian High Commission pointing out irregularities related to CWG preparations in UK. In mid-June the Indian High Commission conveyed the British queries to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). New Delhi looked into the British complaint. This aroused national attention to the possibility of corruption in CWG.
National attention has increased by leaps and bounds after British media reported the Queen’s anger over the alleged corruption involving the arrangements related to the Queen’s Baton Relay (QBR) launched jointly by the Queen and President Pratibha Patel from London. Speaking in parliament Congress MP Manish Tewari dismissed the corruption for being just .07 of the total expenditure. Opposition parties alleged that corruption exposed was just the tip of the iceberg. What is much worse, it was a royal tip. The Brits take their Queen rather seriously.
Chairman of the CWG Organizing Committee (OC) Suresh Kalmadi has stoutly maintained his innocence. During the parliamentary debate on Monday he sat with smug silence as opposition leaders flayed him. He seems undisturbed that his close aide Mr TS Darbari has been sacked from OC. Voluminous documents obtained by the media suggest that Kalmadi was complicit in the decisions related to the alleged corruption. Kalmadi refuses to resign. He has said that if the PM or Mrs Sonia Gandhi would ask him to step down he would oblige. The PM cannot of course take any decision without clearance from 10 Janpath. The ball is in Mrs Gandhi’s court.
Unfortunately until now Mrs Gandhi could not address the issue. The British complaints reached New Delhi in mid-June. After processing data the Enforcement Directorate launched an official investigation into the QBR corruption on July 21st. On July 24th Mrs Gandhi left for abroad with her entire family in order to attend to her ailing mother. Both she and Rahul Gandhi missed the opening of parliament. Mrs Gandhi’s meeting with British PM David Cameron scheduled for July 26th was cancelled at very short notice. Rahul Gandhi visited India to attend parliament for one day but had to return abroad. Only early morning August 9th did Mrs Gandhi herself return. She attended parliament and in the evening chaired the Core Group meeting of her party attended by senior leaders including the PM. It may be inferred that the matter relating to CWG and Suresh Kalmadi’s future would have been discussed. So what will Mrs Gandhi decide?
There is no doubt that the QBR corruption trail leads to Kalmadi. But does the trail end with Kalmadi or does it proceed further in the government? Mrs Gandhi may have to satisfy herself on this count before reaching a final decision. It might be recalled that the corruption related to QBR involves a small, little known British firm, AM Films, headed by one Patel. Who recommended this firm to handle the QBR? According to Kalmadi it was Mr Raju Sebastian, a low level employee at the Indian High Commission in London. To justify the decision to appoint AM Films Kalmadi displayed the letter from Raju Sebastian on TV to claim that it was the Indian High Commission that recommended the firm for the job. The Indian High Commission promptly denied that Raju Sebastian was authorized to make any recommendation. It said that he was too junior to have been assigned the task of making the communication.
The mystery of tracing the ultimate responsibility can be cleared easily if Mrs Gandhi were to simply ask Suresh Kalmadi the following questions:
Question One: Why were you influenced by the recommendation of Raju Sebastian who is a junior employee in the High Commission?
Question Two: Were you acquainted with Raju Sebastian earlier and if so for how long have you known him?
Question Three: If you do not have a longstanding and deep relationship with Raju Sebastian tell us who introduced him to you for the job of recommending firms related to CWG operations in the UK?
If Mrs Gandhi succeeds in extracting answers to these questions from Kalmadi she would be much better placed to take a decision about fixing ultimate responsibility for corruption related to the Queen’s Baton Relay.
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