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Another crisis in Congress

Sujay Mehdudia

PAC chief Vats resigns over `bid to sabotage report' on power privatisation



Dr. S.C. Vats

NEW DELHI: The Congress-led Government here in the Capital was in the throes of another crisis on Tuesday with senior party leader and MLA S.C. Vats resigning as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee in protest against "attempts" to "sabotage" the tabling of the PAC report in the monsoon session of the Delhi Assembly beginning this Thursday. The report is understood to have indicted the Sheila Dikshit Government over the issue of privatisation of power.

"I have submitted my resignation to the Speaker, Chaudhary Prem Singh. What happened at the meeting is confidential but is unfortunate and does not augur well for healthy functioning of democratic institutions," Dr. Vats told The Hindu soon after submitting his resignation.

Refusing to elaborate, Dr. Vats said all that happened during the meeting and the contents of the report were strictly confidential.

It is learnt the report has made a "scathing attack" on the Delhi Government and the methodology adopted in the process of privatisation of the power sector in the Capital. Sources informed that the report had "embarrassing" contents, putting a question mark over the manner in which the Core Committee comprising senior bureaucrats had handled the issue of awarding the contract to the private power companies.

The report is also understood to have indicted the Delhi Government for completely violating the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) guidelines and norms in appointment of SBI Caps as private consultants for working out the privatisation process.

Further, it has pointed out that there was a deliberate attempt by the Government and certain bureaucrats to make Delhi Vidyut Board sick and turn it into a loss-making organisation. It is learnt PAC has also questioned the reversal of certain decisions by the Cabinet as well as the Core Committee with regard to finalising the private players. The PAC has pointed out that the Core Committee had conveyed to the Cabinet not to accept the report in April 2002 as the offers made by private players were unacceptable. However, suddenly during the one month between April-May 2002, the Core Committee changed its opinion and the Cabinet also reversed its decision and awarded private players a role in distribution of power despite these companies making no new offer, raising a lot of questions that have remained unanswered till date. It has also questioned the role of the Delhi Government in pro-actively working to appoint SBI Caps as a consultant that had little experience in privatisation of power.

Interestingly, the Sheila Dikshit Government had been on tenterhooks ever since Dr. Vats was appointed as the PAC chairman. Sources informed that in the meetings held during the past few months, only a handful of members turned up but on Tuesday all the five Congress MLAs including former Power Minister Narendra Nath turned up. He was the first one to object to the adoption of the report, arguing that the PAC cannot go into the issue of privatisation of power and only talk of post-privatisation, a claim disputed by the BJP MLAs and the chairman. However, with the support of four other MLAs, they managed to sabotage the adoption of the report.

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