New Delhi: The growing allegations about the mismanagement of funds by the organizers of the Commonwealth Games provided ready ammunition to the opposition parties in Parliament on Tuesday as they trained their guns on the ruling Congress.
In a damage control exercise, Games organizing committee (OC) chairman Suresh Kalmadi set up a three-member panel to look into the corruption charges.
Opposition members stalled proceedings in the Rajya Sabha, forcing adjournments twice to demand a discussion on the alleged diversion of funds meant for the development of scheduled castes (SC) and scheduled tribes (ST) by the Delhi government for the Games.
Accusing some people in the ruling party of “converting common wealth into individual wealth” Bharatiya Janata Party vice-president M. Venkaiah Naidu demanded that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh set up a probe by officials who are “honest and whose integrity is beyond doubt”.
“The idea is to create common wealth, infrastructure and better conduct of the Games to enhance the prestige and image of the country... But, unfortunately, some people of the ruling side seems to be converting common wealth to individual wealth and trying to misuse resources that were allotted,” Naidu said.
However, the Congress distanced itself from the controversies involving Kalmadi and the OC.
A Right to Information request filed by Delhi-based non-governmental organization Housing and Land Rights Network showed that the Delhi government allegedly diverted Rs744 crore from schemes meant for SCs and STs.
After the Bahujan Samaj Party members raised the matter in the Lok Sabha, Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav also sought a discussion on the issue.
Parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Kumar Bansal denied that there was any diversion of funds.
“There has not been any diversion of funds from SC/ST welfare schemes,” Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit told PTI.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, termed the developments in the OC as “crony capitalism”. According to Sitaram Yechury, CPM politburo member and Rajya Sabha member of Parliament, the renovation charges for Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the main venue for the Games, were Rs961 crore, Dhyan Chand Stadium Rs261 crore and Indira Gandhi Stadium Rs669 crore.
“Whereas the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) had renovated Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium at Rs85 crore, Lal Bahadur Stadium in Hyderabad was renovated at Rs80 crore and the Modern Stadium in Nagpur at Rs84 crore, the total renovation cost the CWG is spending is Rs4,459.48 crore. How do you explain it,” Yechury asked.
Meanwhile Kalmadi, who is embroiled in a series of controversies, met external affairs minister S.M. Krishna amid speculation that the letters recommending UK-based firm AM Car and Van Ltd from the Indian high commission could have been doctored.
“Krishna and Kalmadi had a 25-minute meeting,” an official in the ministry of external affairs said.
According to another official, who did not want to be identified, Krishna pointed out differences in the email records that are with the ministry and what Kalmadi had made public. Kalmadi had presented emails from the Indian high commission’s protocol division in London to insist that the company was recommended to the organizing committee of Queen’s Baton Relay in London.
Kalmadi has set up a panel to look into the allegation. “Kalmadi has set up the panel, which includes Jarnail Singh, organizing committee chief executive officer, G.C. Chaturvedi, special director general (finance), and Gurjyot Kaur, chief vigilance officer,” OC secretary general Lalit Bhanot said. The panel is expected to submit its report by 5 August.
Maintaining that he was not defending Kalmadi, Congress spokesperson Shakeel Ahmad said that the hiring cost for the Queen’s Baton Relay seems to be “unrealistic” and the “OC should explain”.
In another blow to Kalmadi, the government has asked him to sack two senior officials in the OC—T.S. Darbari, joint director general, and Sanjay Mohindroo, deputy director general—who are believed to be close to him.
“With the Games just two months away, matters such as the UK payments and alleged customs inquiry against Darbari raise questions of probity and integrity of officers in the OC. They tarnish the image of the Games and adversely affect its credibility... I would strongly advise you that the above two officers should be immediately relieved of all their duties in the OC and the government informed accordingly,” sports secretary Sindhushree Khullar wrote in a letter to Kalmadi.
Elizabeth Roche and PTI contributed to this story.