Raids, Raja, Radia

Should we be surprised by the number of scams which have surfaced in the last few months? No, but it is difficult to ignore the 2G spectrum scam. In my opinion, a Supreme Court-supervised probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will have greater credibility than a joint parliamentary committee (JPC), especially since certain observations made by the apex court are valid and cut across political lines. The judges’ recent observations are sure to encourage greater exposure of other scams.
The 2G scam will not fade away even if all details of the working of the telecom ministry from the year 2001 (it’ll be even better if it’s done from the year 1999) are reviewed. In national interest, the truth must surface, and once it does it will do a great deal of good for all the political parties.
There should be a focus on the succession of telecom ministers, starting from Ram Vilas Paswan in 1999. From 2001 to 2004, there were four ministers — Pramod Mahajan, Arun Shourie, Jagmohan and Sushma Swaraj. Every individual’s role must come under scrutiny.
The 2G scam has many tentacles and besides the CBI and other government agencies, there is the 24x7 media reporting with the Opposition making things difficult. I think it would be “suicidal” for anyone to try and suppress information as this scam has very deep roots, and that has been made abundantly clear by the Niira Radia tapes.
While the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party fire political blanks at each other, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) is furiously trying to do some damage control as nothing can justify the action taken by former telecom minister A. Raja. But the DMK and Mr Raja cannot seek refuge in any previous policy after receiving letters from the law and finance ministers. Can anyone ignore the directions of the Prime Minister?
The raids on the houses of Mr Raja, his staff, aides and business associates will only confirm what is already known and published in the media. But with such huge sums of money involved, Mr Raja and his family are not the only ones to benefit from this indiscretion.
In politics, as in everything else, retribution comes at some stage. The DMK, which supported three governments (National Democratic Alliance, United Progressive Alliance-1 and UPA-2) with plum portfolios, has much to protect.
It is very sad that one ministry has wrecked the credibility of the entire political system. A small section of individuals are holding the entire political fraternity to ransom. This ailment is not restricted to the Congress but extends to every political party both at the Centre and in the states.
Instead of hurling political missiles at each other, political leaders should expose those who are responsible for this mess as they will use every trick in the book, including political blackmail, to hide the truth. It is a fact that despite Manmohan Singh’s best intentions, little happened in the last two years.
Mr Raja and his family members, if left to the rule of law, can cause problems for DMK chief M. Karunanidhi and his family and may also draw in the Congress and some of its allies. As more dirt flies into the public domain few will believe the political parties.
The Niira Radia tapes have exposed that very little stays confidential in our system and that leaks mostly take place from the top. We have seen the chaos caused by WikiLeaks to the US. Can we rule out the possibility of further leaks and spills from government sources?
It is very sad that political inaction can cast aspersions on many leaders of high integrity. But, in a political system corroded by years of neglect and inaction, this is inevitable. In the future it may not be sufficient to claim integrity levels on a personal basis, but those in power would have to show this quality in taking political decisions as well.
The credibility of the Central government has suffered as firm governance is missing, but I am not sure if anyone has gained in the process as everyone suffers from similar ailments. The public always remains two steps ahead of the political system and is now looking for change.
The 24x7 media reportage has taken investigative journalism to a new level. And the deliberations in the media over its own role and stars shows that the media cannot be “managed” by either the political system or business interest groups.
Force and coercion never produce changes which endure and while the CBI and other agencies, like the Enforcement Directorate and the income-tax department, conduct investigations, the final solution will have to come from the political fraternity.
Few can predict the direction things will take in this 2G scam; the best policy for all media spokesmen is to go on an extended vacation. Chaos is bound to start from Tamil Nadu where Mr Karunanidhi's family is engrossed in succession wars. His family members have “huge assets” which at some stage will be subject to scrutiny and each one will implicate the other.
This massive theft of public resources can claim many victims and anyone associated with the telecom issue in the past, even with the best of intentions, will be under “suspicion”. This is rather unfortunate but sometimes issues get clouded in a crisis of this magnitude.
The attack on Dr Singh and the Congress, coupled with the JPC issue, can be countered by the Congress by questioning the role played by the late Pramod Mahajan. Former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajyapee can also be dragged into the controversy as all this began during his tenure. But all this will yield little gain to either party. The Congress high command is in a Catch-22 situation and cannot afford to take anything for granted.

Arun Nehru is a former Union minister

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