Thiruvananthapuram: In a move that has no parallel in any house, the Pinarayi Vijayan government got the state assembly to pass a resolution dropping three pages from the report on the Comptroller and Auditor General, which were critical of the state government’s market borrowings which the national auditor described as unconstitutional.
The motion was passed after an acrimonious debate in which the opposition accused the government of sabotaging a constitutional body like the CAG. The motion was moved by the chief minister, who accused the CAG of preparing the report without hearing the state government out properly.
Vijayan said he was moving the resolution as otherwise the house would be seen to approve of a wrong practice.
With this, the government would send to the Public Account Committee, which is supposed to scrutinise the report, a version without the critical references.
Leader of opposition Ramesh Chennithala vehemently opposed the government move and described it as an attack on the constitution. He said intolerance to criticism is alright within the party headquarters, but not for the government.
He pointed out that even the BJP government at the Centre, which has resorted to many unconstitutional methods, has never attempted to delete any part of the CAG findings when they were directed against the Union government.
The opposition asserted that the house had no authority to reject the report and it would be like the assembly passing a resolution against a court verdict. If at all any part of the report I found objectionable, first the CAG’s explanation has to be sought, they argued. Majority in the assembly does not mean the licence to tinker with constitutional practice and traditions, they added.
At the root of the problem is the Kerala government’s decision to borrow money from the foreign capital market through a masala bond to raise resources for the state government-owned corporate KIIFB, a company responsible for financing infrastructure development.
The CAG report found serious problems with the move, as foreign borrowing is only allowed for the Union government and as such held it as a violation of the constitutional provisions by the state government.
State finance minister Thomas Isaac had gone on the offensive against the CAG, going to the press after leaking the findings of the auditor even before it was tabled in the house. The conduct even attracted a privilege move by the opposition, which the finance minister, however, managed to handle as the ethics committee of the house had a majority of ruling front members.