Thursday, March 3, 2011

CVC case: How ignoring Sushma's 'dissent' boomeranged

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who, along with home minister P Chidambaram, insisted on P J Thomas's appointment as CVC, did not care for Sushma Swaraj's disapproval, not even when the Leader of Opposition said that she would put in a note of dissent.

At the eventful meeting on September 3 last year, the PM responded to Swaraj's intent to put her "dissent" in writing by gamely calling Prithviraj Chavan, then MoS in the PMO and in charge of Department of Personnel and Training, to write down that Thomas had been appointed by a majority decision and despite the dissent note. The determination boomeranged on the government on Thursday.

According to Swaraj, at the September 3 meeting, which was held at 24-hour notice, three names were put up before the selection panel. Apart from Thomas, Bijay Chakravarty and S Krishnan were being considered. Swaraj had suggested that since there was a corruption charge against Thomas, any of the other two could be appointed and she would have no objection to it. She disagreed with Chidambaram when he said that the official had been been cleared in the palmolein scam.

Swaraj said that she suggested government could consider expanding the panel and, failing that, put off the decision by a day. But when she was told that Thomas was the choice, she made it clear that she could not be party to the decision and put in her dissent note.

Swaraj, however, chose to be restrained after the Supreme Court verdict, limiting herself to the cryptic remark, "I am happy that the dignity of the office of CVC has been restored."

But the BJP immediately jumped upon the government's embarrassment, invoking the PM's favourite quote of Caesar's wife being above suspicion to demand that he "introspect" over the CVC controversy and inform the nation whether he was "misled or allowed himself to be misled" on Thomas's appointment.

"Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj has vindicated herself by expressing dissent. The responsibility lies with the prime minister and the home minister. The PM should introspect on whether he was misled or he allowed himself to be misled," Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said.

In a triumphant mood, BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "The PM often says Caesar's wife must be above suspicion. Now that Supreme Court has quashed the appointment of CVC on the ground that relevant information relating to his involvement in a corruption case was ignored, the country is certainly entitled to know on what benchmark he is going to judge himself."

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