Indian Decade

Commonwealth Games Still Bites

A new report is scathing about the Congress government’s handling of last year’s Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

Maverick politician Digvijay Singh may have dismissed the body as mere ‘account keepers,’ but the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has had the ruling Congress Party in its sights recently – just ask Commonwealth Games scam-tainted Congress MP Suresh Kalmadi and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. Both would probably take issue with Singh’s dismissive description as both are under pressure following the stinging report issued by the CAG over Commonwealth Games irregularities.

The report, filed with parliament on August 5, accuses the Delhi government of a series of irregularities, and has raised questions over the competence of the ministries of sports and urban development. It also slates Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s office for appointing Suresh Kalmadi as Commonwealth Games Organising Committee chairman. Indeed, the 500-plus page report is particularly hard on Kalmadi, saying he effectively seized control of the Commonwealth Games from the government, which agreed to foot the bill with few questions asked. As a result, the United Progressive Alliance government is said to have become ‘an impotent observer’ of corruption that cost taxpayers dearly.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has been quick to use the report as ammunitionagainst the prime minister, arguing that he abdicated his governing responsibilities. Although Congress hasn’t yet taken any decision on the question of removing Dikshit in light of the report, her position is looking increasingly untenable.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s absence for surgery in the United States could be a silver lining for Dikshit, giving her some much needed breathing space. But according to the report, Dikshit cost the government hundreds of crores (tens of millions of dollars) through mismanagement. For her part, the beleaguered chief minister said Friday evening that she hasn’t yet received a copy of the auditor's report, which will be presented to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament.

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Still, the question now seems to be not if, but when, the Congress will lose another leader to the Commonwealth Games scam.