TN Chaturvedi, the former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), who played instrumental role in bringing the Bofors scandal to the public eye, passed away on Sunday night at the age of 90. Triloki Nath Chaturvedi became an IAS officer in early 1950s, just a few years after country’s independence, when its polity was at nascent stage. A multitalented personality, Chaturvedi discharged his duties in many roles, and contributed in the process of nation-building.
He administered National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie and appointed as chairman of Indian Institute of Public Administration, and at both places he helped the newly inducted public administrators to- learn, grow, and excel. Most of the bureaucrats who were trained under him remember the man as “compassionate, soft spoken, and very well read”.
“I was a trainee when he (Chaturvedi) was the joint director at the National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie, in 1970. Many of us had joined the academy just after finishing college but he helped us feel at home,” said former cabinet secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar.
Back in 1975, our army had made it known to the Govt of India, that it badly needed a medium artillery gun. There were 4 arms manufacturers in play and the army had initially favoured the French Sofma since it was the only gun that met a critical aspect of the General Staff Qualitative Requirement (GSQR), of having a range of 29 KMs.
And then sometime during February 1986, the Swedish Bofors emerged as the top contender for the billion dollar contract. The French gun maker met 84 percent of the defence procurement parameters while Bofors met only about 64 percent.
Subsequently, the GSQR was changed to suit Bofors. A contract was inked in haste (in the lounge of an airport, at that!), in March 1986, between India and Sweden for the supply of 400 Howitzers manufactured by Bofors. The then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi also held additional charge as the defence minister. He had taken over that portfolio from PV Narasimha Rao in September 1985, immediately after he returned from a state visit to Sweden to meet their Prime Minister Olof Palme, ostensibly to discuss about the Bofors contract.
On April 16, 1987, Swedish radio broke the news that Bofors had paid bribes to Indian politicians in order to land the deal. The Indian Express and The Hindu ran the news the following day. The image of Rajiv suffered a massive blow and he was forced to order an inquiry. The mood of the public turned against him.
As CAG, TN Chaturvedi prepared report on purchase of Howitzer guns from Swedish company, Bofors and pointed out many irregularities in the deal. The report was mysteriously leaked to the media before tabled in the parliament, and the Bofors scandal played crucial role in Congress party’s poor performance in 1989 general election, and the party lost power.
Congress was decimated in the 1989 polls; they had won 404 seats in 1984 in the Lok Sabha, the only time a single party crossed 400 seats! And in 1989, Rajiv’s fall from grace was evident from the fact that the Congress could only garner 197 seats! VP Singh came to power in 1989.
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