Thursday, November 11, 2010

Does the 2G spectrum scam go beyond A. Raja?

After the categorically damning CAG report on the 2G spectrum scam and under tremendous pressure from the opposition parties, and not out of a freshly revived sense of political propriety, it is certain that the prime minister will have to dismiss A. Raja from the Union Cabinet and it will be sooner, than later. But that won't end the story in so far as Manmohan Singh's conduct in the matter as the prime minister and head of the government is concerned.

As has been reported by the press, in 2007 there waged a running battle between A. Raja and the then Telecom Secretary D.S. Mathur on several issues relating to the imminent sale of the 2G spectrum; Raja wanted to do the things in an arbitrary manner and Mathur resisted for all he was worth. Should not Singh, through the Cabinet Secretary or otherwise, have then intervened and formulated a transparent policy in the national interest? Had Singh been even a little perceptive and pro-active at that time, there won't have been an occasion for Raja to feel free after Mathur's retirement on December 31, 2007 to allot 2G licences in January 2008 at the 2001 prices, on a first-come first-served basis and to close the window of opportunity post facto so that he could cherry pick keeping out a number of competent applicants. The consequence of these well-calculated moves of his - loss of revenue to the order of Rs.1.76 lac crore or about US$39 billion to the national exchequer according to the final report just submitted to the President of India by the Comptroller and Auditor-General. To put this revenue loss of Rs.1.76 lac crore in proper perspective - India's defence budget for the entire financial year 2008-09 was much smaller.

Having failed to act in 2007, in January 2008, Singh could have over-ridden Raja's decision and cancelled the spectrum allotment even if it meant sacking Raja. In Singh's defence it would be said that the coalition dharma stopped him from doing so. But what kind of dharma is this that prevents the prime minister from opposing the adharma being practised openly and brazenly by a coalition partner? What is more important - the survival of the coalition or that of the nation?

And even if Raja's party and its close allies had withdrawn their 30-35 Members of Parliament, the government would have survived for the simple reason that Singh and his political party have mastered the art. Did the government not hold out when a much larger body of 64 M.P.s of the Left walked out just six months later in July 2008?

Therefore, the real reason for letting Raja continue unhindered and undisturbed for all these years despite his obvious wrong-doings castigated by the CAG, TRAI, CBI, CVC and the Supreme court of India could lie somewhere else, it may not be in the so-called coalition dharma. Let us be clear that post-Lal Bahadur Shastri, Singh's political party does not have a name for probity and rectitude in financial matters but he himself is supposed to be honest, however, after this scam his own reputation is at stake. He can reclaim it only by acting purposefully and forcefully on the CAG's and other investigative reports, prosecuting the indicted and recovering to the last paisa the sum of Rs.1.76 lac crore from the looters whosoever and wherever they are. It is the real test of Singh's character and it is going to be extremely tough but with a clear conscience, indomitable courage and loyalty only to the people of India, he can come out successful. And in the true interest of my country, I wish he did!

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