PAC meet sees slugfest between BJP, Cong

NEW DELHI: Signalling a political tug of war ahead, the first meeting of the reconstituted Public Accounts Committee (PAC) today saw a strong demand from BJP members to take up contentious AgustaWestland issue while a Congress member asked the parliamentary audit panel to examine the implementation of Prime Minister’s pet ‘Make in India’ scheme.
Trinamool Congress member Sukhendu Sekhar Roy wondered if it will not be a “conflict of interest” to discuss defence deals in the presence of Comptroller and Auditor General Shashi Kant Sharma, who was earlier Defence Secretary.
Roy noted that the CAG is examining a number of matters including some deals and has submitted a report on some of them. He questioned how the PAC could examine the CAG reports on defence deals when Sharma was earlier Defence Secretary.
“How can the CAG sit here, when we are examining those reports,” Roy asked. PAC Chairman K V Thomas, however, reminded him that the issue of appointment of Sharma as CAG had been settled earlier. The Supreme Court had rejected a plea seeking quashing of appointment of Shashi Kant Sharma as the CAG. The issues were raised in the presence of Sharma, who made the customary CAG briefing in the first meeting of the newly-constituted Public Accounts committee headed by senior Congress leader K V Thomas. In the meeting that was called to decide on subjects to be taken up during its one year-tenure, Vijay Goel (BJP) said the PAC should take up the 2013 CAG report on “irregularities” in the VVIP chopper deal.
The demand was also supported by BJD’s B Mahtab, who said that there should not be any bar on PAC taking up even those issues that are being investigated by agencies like the CBI or those pending before the courts.
Mahtab also cited that PAC had looked into CAG reports on coal block allocation. Thomas, however, remained non-committal over the demand and asked the members to write to him about the issues that they want to discuss. Sources said that the BJP members are keen to discuss the VVIP chopper deal issue and won’t mind going for a voting in the committee if Congress members are disinclined to take it up.
Shantaram Naik (Congress) demanded that the PAC should examine the implementation of Make in India programme of Centre. .