Political Economy

Exclusive: PMO Rebuffs Parliament Committee on Fraud NPA Cases, Deploys Ministers to Meet Joshi

Citing banking secrecy clauses, Modi government tells key panel it won't share information on action taken against names mentioned in the list Raghuram Rajan submitted in February 2015.

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office and finance minister Arun Jaitley have refused to provide any information on the “Rajan list” of “high profile fraud cases of non-performing assets” to the estimates committee of parliament headed by senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader and MP Murli Manohar Joshi.

Instead, senior ministers have been deployed to meet Joshi privately to discuss the committee’s work, a development that constitutional experts say crosses the line of propriety.

As the RBI revealed in response to an RTI query from The Wire, former governor Raghuram Rajan wrote to both the PMO and Jaitley’s office on February 4, 2015 with a list of fraud cases that needed coordinated investigation.

Parliament has statutory oversight over the executive and the government’s refusal to provide the high-powered committee with details of action taken on the “high profile fraud cases of NPAs” suggests Modi either took no action at all or has little to show despite the passage of over three years since the receipt of the list.

Also read: Exclusive: RTI Confirms Raghuram Rajan Sent Modi List of NPA Defaulters, Action Taken a Secret

Angry at the snub to parliament, Joshi now plans to ask Rajan to provide the estimates committee with the list he gave since the former RBI governor is not bound by the kind of confidentiality or banking clauses the Modi government has cited as the reason for refusing to cooperate.

In a shocking and unprecedented development, two senior members of Modi’s cabinet – minister for railways Piyush Goyal and health minister J.P. Nadda – called on Joshi at his residence around Dussehra and tried to discuss two reports of the estimates committee with him. One of those is the NPA report and the other the controversial one on GDP growth.

The manner in which the two ministers called on the head of a parliamentary committee is being seen by committee members as a “gross impropriety”. “Imagine what the consequences would have been if ministers during Manmohan Singh’s tenure had tried to privately meet Joshi, who chaired the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the 2G scam at the time,” said an MP.

Despite, several attempts, Joshi refused to respond to questions. Goyal and Nadda also did not comment.

Joshi has sent three reminders to the PMO asking for the list and action taken report. However, the PMO has taken recourse to citing a “banking rule” to justify not sharing the Rajan list with parliament.

Also read: Big Business Strikes Again, this Time Through Modi Government’s Assault on RBI

Authoritative sources told The Wire that Joshi has written to Modi to say the PMO could easily share the Rajan list with him – if not the entire estimates committee – after making him take the oath of official secrecy. The Modi government has not yet sent Joshi a reply on this proposal either. Sources say that Rajan can even appear before the committee in person and apprise them of the name of the high profile defaulters.

The “Rajan list” has become a huge hot button embarrassment for the Modi government and sources say that the list and Rajan’s insistence on ensuring that the NPAs were reflected in the public sector banks books were the twin reasons he was not given an extension by the Modi government.

From demonetisation, which wrecked the functional autonomy of the RBI, to the current impasse with RBI governor Urjit Patel which has brought him to the verge of resigning the Modi government appears unrelenting in its efforts to undermine the central bank’s independence.