The web of scams

The 2G spectrum scam is like an octopus with a hundred tentacles niggling the United Progressive Alliance government in a hundred different places. Just as one threat is dealt with, another one tightens its grip. Events often overtake decisions and as the issue goes deep in the public domain, attitudes harden. The Congress’ offer of a Supreme Court-supervised probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation was rejected by the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Left and others in the Opposition. They are all insisting on a joint parliamentary committee and the final decision now rests with the Supreme Court.
Besides the 2G scam, there are also serious issues concerning the Niira Radia tapes and the appointment of P.J. Thomas as the Chief Vigilance Commissioner.
The Supreme Court has questioned Mr Thomas’ choice as the CVC, saying he could find it difficult to discharge his duties because of the pending chargesheet against him in the Kerala palmolein import scam. Also, it termed the murky revelations in the phone conversations of corporate lobbyist Niira Radia as “mind-boggling”.
The reported reaction of the Supreme Court to the tapes has been very similar to the public reaction. The only good thing about the tapes episode is that barring former telecom minister A. Raja and other Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (dmk) leaders, the lady concerned had no conversations with anyone in power. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s council of ministers is untainted in this saga.
None of those involved in these interactions are likely to escape with their reputations intact and all the “lobbying” efforts of a section of the media will yield negative results. The Supreme Court has asked the Centre for the tapes and I think we should wait for their observations and not speculate on the issue. The CVC controversy will continue to fester as will the issue of the CBI probe of Mr Raja. But no action taken under pressure will help the government.
Telecom minister Kapil Sibal made sensible statements on taking charge. On initiating corrective steps, he indicated that the Opposition should agree on a CBI probe under the Supreme Court’s supervision.
Directly and indirectly, several other issues, personalities and interests are involved with corruption probes, be it the Delhi Commonwealth Games, the Adarsh Society scam, the Indian Premier League case, the efforts of Jairam Ramesh to protect the environment, and the 2G case, of course. There is chaos in the political fraternity and this will grow worse as strong vested interests are bound to come into play.
As I have often written in the past, the financial pressure groups will do everything possible to stop action being initiated to clean the system. The DMK launched verbal missiles warning against any action against Mr Raja. The DMK ignored corruption and exploited the dalit angle. But the government is unlikely to yield, and I am not sure if the DMK can afford to destabilise UPA-2.
The DMK faces an anti-incumbency trend in Tamil Nadu and besides the succession war that is raging in the Karunanidhi family, there is a viable Opposition in the form of the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). Can anyone predict in which direction the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and other small parties will move? The Congress, if pushed, is not without options.
The alleged green violations in the Lake City Project of Lavasa Corporation has pitted environment minister Jairam Ramesh against agriculture minister Sharad Pawar. Mr Pawar has supported the Lavasa project but the issue can go much deeper with the IPL cases and action initiated by the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
Along with this there are several other issues associated with the 2G scam, for example the licences issued. Swan Telecom, in particular, is attracting a lot of attention.
Mr Pawar’s statement, indicating that corporate interests should not be unfairly targeted is justified, but in the 2G scam the “corporate interests” are restricted to a small group that clearly got extraordinary benefits at the expense of the industry and the nation. The industry will welcome a level playing field.
But like the Adarsh Housing Society scam, why was the Lavasa project given clearance if there were severe environmental problems? Once a large amount of money is spent by the promoters, issues become very complicated.
The corruption in the Delhi Commonwealth Games does not involve any political group, but the Congress Party was smart to maintain its distance when the first signs of trouble emerged.
There are very few secrets in this scam and all the associates of the chairman of the Commonwealth Organising Committee, Suresh Kalmadi, who were directly involved, have been arrested and are being interrogated. Sadly, the finger will point directly towards Mr Kalmadi and attempts to deflect the blame to the urban affairs ministry, Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, the Lieutenant-Governor of Delhi or sports minister M.S. Gill will have no credibility. No one has ever suggested their involvement in any financial issue.
Much went wrong in several projects and the V.K. Shunglu Committee will give a report that will initiate further action.
As all this goes on, we have daily reports of more scams and cases of bribery and corruption. This will intensify as the government initiates action on all the scams. There is now great incentive for the public, with the help of the media, to expose cases of extortion, corruption and harassment in all the three wings of governance. And the media, despite an “accident” or two, has come out with flying colours. As we have seen, the media superstars have also got to exercise their celebrity status with care and discretion. Otherwise, reputations built over many decades can be wiped out in a few minutes!
We are undergoing change and beginning to feel the turbulence of coalition politics. I understand the political compulsions faced at the “top” as this is not an easy situation for anyone. But if confronted with “blackmail”, I would opt for a mid-term poll. All those who have little to hide will have a spectacular victory. The voting public is always one step ahead of the politicians. And in politics, like every other discipline, in moments of crisis fortune always favours the brave.

Arun Nehru is a former Union minister

Comments

Very good article.

Very good article.

Arun Nehru, if his health

Arun Nehru, if his health permits, should enter the political arena.

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