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Volcker panel named Congress not me in its first report: Natwar Singh

Saturday, 2 August 2014 - 6:35am IST | Agency: dna

Expelled Congress leader says his name was added later

The most damaging revelations of Natwar Singh's memoir, One Life is Not Enough, may not be its disclosure of how it was at Rahul Gandhi's insistence that Sonia Gandhi abdicated the prime-ministership in 2004 or that she had "moles" in every ministry.

Disclosures in the book that might still have negative repercussions for the Congress, especially with the change in guard at the Centre, relate to the Volcker Committee Report. It was on this issue that Singh had resigned as external affairs minister in 2005. The Volcker Report, which investigated irregularities in the United Nations Oil-for-Food programme in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, had named several
Indian beneficiaries -- among them, Bhim Singh of the Panther Party, the Congress Party and Natwar Singh. Singh alleges that his name or that of his son were not part of the first list of illegal beneficiaries under the Volcker Report, but were added later.

In Singh's version, the Congress and government, prodded by Sonia Gandhi, not just failed to defend him but they actively conspired to paint him guilty. Party general secretary Ambika Soni released a
statement, without once talking to Singh, the very day after the scandal broke, dissociating the Congress from his alleged culpability in the affair. "I was outraged...My relation with the Gandhi-Nehru
family had begun in July 1944; at least I should have been given the benefit of doubt by the party chief."

Then Anil Mathrani, a Congressman and ambassador to Croatia, alleged in a media interview a few days later that Singh had been in the know of the underhand dealings. "It was all too obvious that the campaign had been well-orchestrated against me...Nowhere was it mentioned that the Volcker Report had named the Congress too," he writes.

Manmohan Singh had met Volcker in September 2004, Singh reveals, adding,"I was a bit surprised at why he needed to spend so much time with the man."

Singh rakes up other slights. His affidavit to the Justice RS Pathak Committee, set up to investigate the Volcker Report, he alleges, were leaked to the media. The media was also tipped off about his visits to
the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which charge-sheeted Singh and his son Jagat, in order to make him seem guilty in the public eye. The ED case, according to media reports, alleged Rs5.4 crore foreign exchange violation.

But what could potentially be more damaging is Singh's revelation that the contents of the "thousands of documents", brought back by Virendra Dayal, former UN undersecretary general appointed by the Indian
government to liaise with the Volcker Committee and submitted to the ED, remain unknown to this day. They were not given to the Pathak Committee, and Singh's appeal to the Delhi high court to be allowed
access to the documents was turned down.

There's also the curious fate of the RTI application filed by Bangalore lawyer Arun Kumar Agawral, asking that the documents be submitted to the Central Information Commission (CIC). The CIC first
upheld the petition, Singh writes, and asked for the documents, but the ED, which had them, filed appeals with the high court and Supreme Court seeking exemption from submitting them. Finally, Singh writes,
the CIC turned down the RTI saying the disclosure would "adversely affect" India's relations with foreign countries.

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