Caught red-handed – Will honest PM sack Raja now?

via The Pioneer Edit Desk published on April 29, 2010

For all his elaborate denials of, and twisted explanations about, short-changing the public exchequer while helping dubious firms acquire 2G spectrum for a song to be sold later for a fortune, Union Minister for Communication and Information Technology A Raja today stands denuded of both dignity and integrity. The Pioneer, which has been tracking the 2G spectrum scam and the DMK politician’s role in it, has placed before the nation evidence that not only nails Mr Raja’s many lies but also shows that the UPA Government is fully aware of his pandering to business interests for reasons that are far too obvious to be elaborated. The Income Tax Department, on the basis of “specific information” received from the Central Board of Direct Taxes, placed the telephone lines of lobbyists and middlemen representing corporate entities interested in acquiring 2G spectrum under surveillance after securing necessary approval from the Home Secretary. In other words, telephone conversations were tapped and taped with authorisation and these show how 2G spectrum deals were fixed with the full involvement of Mr Raja. The CBI, which is investigating the 2G spectrum scam, came across these details when it sought information from the Income Tax Department to facilitate its inquiries. From the official response to the CBI’s request it is evident that details of the incriminating taped conversations exist on file; the Income Tax Department has offered to share them with the CBI. It is now up to the investigating agency to carry forward its probe and come to a conclusion about Mr Raja’s wrongdoing and the extend of corruption that marked the distribution of licences under his raj. There is, however, another aspect to the episode which merits comment: The stunning, deafening silence of the Prime Minister who strangely refuses to take cognisance of his Cabinet colleague’s gross financial misdeed. Indeed, Mr Manmohan Singh appears to be paralysed into inaction in the face of overwhelming evidence, a fraction of which should have sufficed to sack Mr Raja rather than allow him to heap shame on the Government.

It would be futile for the Prime Minister’s drum-beaters to claim, as they often do in such circumstances, that he is unaware of the Minister’s reckless ways and means. Apart from the fact that there is something called the principle of collective responsibility — the Prime Minister is ultimately accountable for any Minister’s sins of omission and commission — Mr Singh has for long known about Mr Raja’s wilful violation of standard norms and rules with the deceitful intention of favouring certain firms. After all, the Minister scornfully disregarded a feeble intervention sought to be made by the Prime Minister and did not hesitate to embarrass Mr Singh in court affidavits. Nor has Mr Raja bothered to hide his contempt for legal advice proffered by the Law Ministry. Yet, Mr Singh has chosen to gloss over rank corruption in his Government, ignoring deal-fixing by a Cabinet Minister right under his nose. Is it cynical indifference or political compulsion that prevents the Prime Minister from exercising his authority? Why is Mr Singh, whose publicists do not tire of describing him as a person of unimpeachable integrity and absolute honesty, unable to strike out at such dishonesty? True, Mr Raja has been nominated by the DMK, an ally of the Congress, to represent his party in the Government and has not been selected by the Prime Minister. But surely that does not stop him from acting in the interest of the nation? Or does office without authority matter more to Mr Singh?

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