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TN Chaturvedi, the CAG whose report on Bofors brought down Rajiv Gandhi govt 

The former IAS officer, who held various posts, including that of Karnataka governor, passed away Sunday night. He was 94.  

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New Delhi: A mentor to many young civil servants in the late 1960s, former IAS officer and Karnataka governor, Triloki Nath Chaturvedi, 94, who passed away Sunday night, was the “go-to man” whenever a junior or contemporary needed advice or support. 

“Compassionate”, “soft-spoken”, “thorough professional” is how former IAS officers described Chaturvedi.     

“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. “He was very compassionate.”   

Chandrasekhar said that Chaturvedi would often call small groups of the young probationers home for a cup of tea and shared his experience with them. “He was a mentor to us, very well-read and knowledgeable,” the former cabinet secretary said. “We treated him with a lot of respect.”   

Educated at Allahabad University where he finished with a M.A. L.LB degree, Chaturvedi joined the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) in 1950, and was allotted the Rajasthan cadre. He had held several positions in the government, including union home secretary before he retired over two decades ago. 

However, in the over three decades that he was in public life, Chaturvedi was best known for his stint as the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in the late 1980s. As CAG, he had prepared a report in 1989 that found irregularities in the purchase of howitzer guns by the then Congress government led by Rajiv Gandhi. The report had specifically mentioned the Swedish arms manufacturer Bofors, the supplier of the howitzers. 

The report, which was leaked to the media before it was tabled in the Parliament, created a furore, with the Congress alleging foul play. The Bofors scandal eventually brought down the Rajiv Gandhi government. 

Congress leaders, though, got a handle to target Chaturvedi when the latter joined the BJP and became the party’s Rajya Sabha MP from 1992 to 1998.

In an interview to Business Standard in 2013, Chaturvedi defended his decision to join BJP after holding a constitutional post such as the CAG.  “This practice has been going on since the time of Jawaharlal Nehru…. The precedent was set before me,” he had said. “Moreover, the Constitution doesn’t say anywhere that I cannot accept the membership of a political party. I have the right to do so. If I have done wrong, then someone must point out how I have violated the Constitution.”

Chaturvedi was subsequently appointed the Karnataka governor in 2002, a post he held until 2007. 

The decision to join the BJP, however, dogged him all his life. In 2012, senior Congress leader Shakeel Ahmed had tweeted, “TN Chaturvedi, CAG who raised the Bofors issue was sent to Rajya Sabha and appointed Governor by BJP. Court dismissed plea against Rajiv G.”  

Also read: ‘Anti-establishment’ JNU has for decades given India its politicians, IAS & IFS officers 

‘He knew the strength of CAG’

Vinod Rai, another former CAG, described Chaturvedi as a “thorough professional”. 

Rai met him for the first time in the early 1990s when he was a joint secretary in the defence ministry and Chaturvedi was the CAG. Rai said he had gone to consult him on an issue. “He was way senior but very supportive and receptive,” he added. 

Rai further said that he had not been in touch with Chaturvedi since but was pleasantly surprised when the latter reached out to him after he became the CAG. At that point of time, the report prepared by Rai on the 2G Scam was making headlines. 

“Mr Chaturvedi reached out to me on his own and told me not to be afraid of taking a stand as long as I was objective, followed due process and there were no skeletons in the cupboard,” Rai said. 

Rai said that Chaturvedi knew that CAG reports go through three layers of vetting, where every report is peer reviewed. “He told me to ensure that all contrarian views are duly recorded in the report,” Rai added.

An advice, which stood him in good stead, Rai said. 

‘A thorough all-rounder’

Anil Kumar, a retired Rajasthan cadre IAS who had worked with Chaturvedi when the latter was the Rajasthan State Industrial Development and Investment Corporation chairman, remembers him as a “thorough all-rounder” who was equally compassionate.

Recalling an incident, Kumar said that when Chaturvedi was appointed director of the Indian Institute of Public Administration, there was a lot of hue and cry over how a civil servant could be appointed to the post. 

Kumar said former PM Chandra Shekhar, who was then a Janata Party leader, had also criticised the move. Chaturvedi later declined the offer.

A few years later, when Chandra Shekhar was in jail during Emergency, Chaturvedi was the chief commissioner at Chandigarh. “Chandra Shekhar wrote in his diary that he came across an article in a newspaper about how Chaturvedi had gone out of the way to help a kidney patient,” said Kumar, who had served as secretary in several central ministries, adding that the former PM regretted that he had “opposed the candidature of such a brilliant and humane officer”.

Kumar also said Chaturvedi was one of the youngest IAS officers to serve as the secretary to the then Rajasthan chief minister Mohan Lal Sukhadia. “He was just four years into the service when he became the secretary to the CM,” he said.

Also read: Modi govt plans national university to train IAS, IPS, IRS officers, other civil servants 


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