Raja resigns in 2G scam

The DMK’s A. Raja finally stepped down as Union communications and information technology minister on Sunday night after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi stepped up pressure on him and ally DMK for his resignation.

Mr Raja drove to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence late on Sunday night to hand in his resignation on the issue of alleged corruption in 2G spectrum allocation shortly after returning from Chennai. “In order to avoid embarrassment to the government and maintain peace and harmony in Parliament, my leader (DMK chief M. Karunanidhi) has advised me to resign,” Mr Raja told reporters.
Mr Raja, who met DMK supremo and Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi in Chennai for the second time in the last 24 hours, had no option left but to quit. The Congress high command told the DMK leadership that it could not compromise on the issue of corruption after removing Mr Ashok Chavan as Maharashtra chief minister in view of the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society scam in Mumbai, and Mr Suresh Kalmadi as secretary of the Congress Parliamentary Party on the CWG scam.
The AIADMK, meanwhile, said Mr Raja’s resignation is only the first step and that a JPC should be constituted to probe the affair. The AIADMK’s Maitreyan said, “This is just the first step. Now, a JPC should be ordered.”
Mr Raja is the third victim of scams that haunted the UPA in its second term. He is also the second Union minister, after Mr Shashi Tharoor, to quit due to a controversy.
The Raja issue gained momentum when AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa came out openly in support of the Manmohan Singh government, asking it not to worry about the numbers the DMK provided the ruling coalition in the Lok Sabha. She had also promised to muster the support of MPs to back the Centre.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been wanting to drop Mr Raja ever since the issue cropped up, embarrassing his government. Mr Karunanidhi, on his part, tried to save Mr Raja, refusing to “withdraw” him from the Union Cabinet. But, ultimately, he could not save him as the DMK itself grew isolated in the UPA.
On Sunday morning, the Congress top brass — Mrs Sonia Gandhi, Dr Manmohan Singh, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and the Congress president’s political secretary, Mr Ahmed Patel — met and took stock of the situation. This sent the right message to Chennai.
The Supreme Court will hear the 2G Spectrum scam on Monday in which the role of Mr Raja has been called into question. A bench comprising Justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly are to hear the two petitions filed by one NGO, CPIL, and Dr Subramanian Swamy, alleging corruption running into `70,000 crores in 2G spectrum allocation.
The hearing comes in the midst of a report by the CAG, which is reported to have found a revenue loss of up to `1.76 lakh crores.
Earlier on Sunday, coming under severe pressure from the Congress, Tamil Nadu CM M. Karunanidhi went into a huddle with party seniors over the political ramifications. Mr Raja, who flew down from New Delhi and met the CM twice before returning to the national capital.
According to highly-placed DMK sources in Chennai, Mr Karunanidhi was left with no choice but to give up Mr Raja to pave the way for the smooth conduct of Parliament. “Thalaivar has to save the party’s image ahead of the Assembly polls and he did not want to embarrass Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. After the Congress took action against Ashok Chavan and Suresh Kalmadi, moral pressure on the party was enormous,” a senior DMK leader said in Chennai.
While Mr Raja maintains he has done nothing wrong, his supporters say he does not want to be a “headache” for the leadership. However, it remains to be seen whether Mr Karunanidhi is able to get some other portfolio for Mr Raja.
While a section of Congress leaders openly blame the DMK for the ruckus in Parliament, Mr Raja could not find much support within his party except in Mr Karunanidhi.
This is not seen as the end of the road for the dalit face of the ruling party in Tamil Nadu. However, given the circumstances of his exit, it may take a while for the Ooty-based MP to return from the political wilderness.
The DMK also sees the need to keep the Congress alliance intact for the forthcoming Assembly elections as more important than the controversial portfolio in the Union Cabinet.

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