Following two hours of heated discussions in the Kerala assembly on KIIFB and CAG report, the opposition members walked out, claiming “dissatisfactory response” from the government. Earlier, Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan had permitted the opposition’s adjournment motion to discuss the issue.
Amidst the discussion on the controversial CAG report, the opposition and LDF members held a heated debate on the matter with some repeated arguments as well as new ones. Agreeing with the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report, Congress MLA VD Satheesan told the Assembly that the CAG isn’t some political entity that has malicious intentions. “The same constitutional body had earlier criticised the Narendra Modi-led BJP government in the Centre for their off-budget borrowings. However, the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman did not hold a press conference to discuss the matter,” he said, adding that the LDF government’s claims of some BJP-Congress conspiracy are an escapist strategy.
Satheesan also said that Thomas Isaac did not call a press meet to discuss the CAG report in 2018 when it had been talking about the off-budget borrowings. Addressing the allegations, CPM MLA James Mathew said there was a conspiracy against KIIFB, and that the CAG audit had emerged from multiple complaints the Sangh and Congress members have filed in courts. “If the KIIFB Masala Bond had been a violation of Constitutional provisions, then why haven’t the Centre taken any action against us?” asks James.
MLA M Swaraj added that the opposition’s argument that KIIFB and the state government violated Article 293 of the Indian Constitution is false. “The Congress is afraid that they will never get power in the state. The CAG was trying to fulfil the BJP Centre’s political intentions in the state,” he added.
However, Satheesan had said that KIIFB gets its revenue from the petrol cess and motor vehicle tax, and as such, it cannot be considered outside the government. This means that as part of the state government it cannot borrow from outside the country. Moreover, the Reserve Bank of India’s Non Objection Certificate mentions that the permission is only about matters under FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act) and any other permission must be collected from the respective departments. The Congress MLA pointed out that Finance Minister Thomas Isaac had misinterpreted the RBI’s consent.
Above all, Satheesan said that the minister had lied when the latter had claimed that the CAG hadn’t contacted the ministry regarding discussions on the report. Isaac had earlier said that the CAG had added three pages to the draft document criticising the bond and the violation of constitutionality, which was missing in the original draft. Satheesan said, “The CAG and finance department officials participated in the exit meeting and the Accountant’s General had sent the minutes of the meeting to the office. However, the latter is yet to sign and return it.” Isaac challenged it, asking the Congress leader as to where he got the information and urged the opposition to present the evidence if possible.
The session continued with repeated and evasive arguments, and ended with the opposition’s walk out, claiming that the government hadn’t provided an effective answer to their queries. Following this, the Speaker dismissed the motion.