Cong sends DMK options-open signal

The Congress is mounting pressure on DMK chief M. Karunanidhi to agree to drop controversial Union telecom minister A. Raja from the Union Cabinet on the 2G spectrum allocation issue. The controversy has united the Opposition and isolated the DMK at the Centre.

While the Congress is in no mood to defend Mr Raja and is guarded on continuing the alliance with the DMK, it is also sending out a clear signal to its ally that its options are open.
The message is loud and clear: the Congress is not depending on the DMK to run the Centre and can look for other parties for support if the Karunanidhi-led party leaves the UPA.
Echoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Friday statement, the Congress on Saturday said the DMK is its partner “as of now” but, significantly, added it was difficult to say what would happen in future. “It is very difficult to say what will happen in future. But, as of now, we are in alliance with the DMK,” party spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed told reporters here while replying to a question on whether the Congress would rule out any alliance with the AIADMK in the future after Ms Jayalalithaa’s offer of support to the UPA government if it drops Mr Raja. The PM is expected to consult the Congress leadership on the issue.
Dr Singh had on Friday said it was for the Congress high command to “take note” of the offer of support from AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa in return for the sacking of Raja, but added that “as of now” the alliance with the DMK stood. His statement was different from other Congress officials who asked where people saw a vacancy and rejected Ms Jayalalithaa’s offer.
The Opposition campaign for the removal of Mr Raja is expected to gain further momentum next
week with the CAG report on the 2G Spectrum allocation set to be tabled in Parliament in the next few days.
Highly-placed government sources said the report has been sent to the President by the finance ministry and will be tabled in Parliament in the next three-four days. The Opposition has been demanding the sacking of Mr Raja on the basis of the CAG report on 2G spectrum allocation that is presumed to have caused a revenue loss of up to `1.76 lakh crores. Parliament was on the issue since the Winter Session began on Tuesday.
The CAG is believed to have accused the telecom ministry of undervaluing 2G spectrum, sold to new players in 2008, and held that the allotment price was not realistic, thereby resulting in revenue loss of up to `1,76,700 crore to the government.
The report is also understood to have castigated Mr Raja for ignoring the advice of the finance and law ministries on allocation of 2G spectrum to benefit a few operators. On his part, Mr Raja has been asserting that he had not done anything wrong.
Meanwhile, former telecom secretary D.S. Mathur waded into the controversy, claiming that Mr Raja had ignored his advice for an auction, but the ministry hit back saying the official had cleared the files for issuing licences as per existing policy.

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