Corruption king forced to go

published on November 14, 2010

Pioneer News Service | New Delhi
Karunanidhi somersaults, sacrifices his blue-eyed boy

Telecom Minister A Raja has finally resigned. Two years after The Pioneer first exposed the 2G spectrum scam, pegged at Rs 1.70 crore by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), the DMK Minister became a casualty of sustained Opposition pressure, intense media scrutiny and public debate.

Upon returning to New Delhi from Chennai late on Sunday, Raja drove straight to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence from the airport and submitted his resignation. “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. I will prove my innocence…I did everything in accordance with the law. I brought about a revolution in the telecom sector. My conscience is clear. I did much for the country, for my people,” Raja said.

Minutes later, the DMK headquarters in Chennai stated that Raja had been advised to submit his resignation to the Prime Minister for ensuring smooth functioning of Parliament and that there was nothing wrong on his part in following the procedures in the allocation of 2G spectrum. Raja had followed the 1999 National Telecom Policy, the statement added.

The one man who gets full credit for the fall of Raja is undoubtedly The Pioneer’s Special Correspondent J Gopikrishnan,who first blew the whistle on the 2G spectrum scam in December 2008. Thereafter, he wrote as many as 70 incisive stories on the scam, exposing various facets of Raja’s murky designs in spectrum allotment. Gopi launched the crusade and kept it going when few others dared to take on the ‘mighty’ Raja.

With the Opposition determined to stall Parliament over the demand for Raja’s removal and the Supreme Court on Monday slated to hear two cases related to the 2G spectrum scam, the Congress leadership had little option but to nudge Raja out of the Union Cabinet.

When news tricked in late on Sunday that the Prime Minister would make a statement in Parliament on the 2G issue, it became clear that Raja was on his way out.

The process to get rid of Raja was set into motion earlier in the day when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Sonia’s political secretary Ahmed Patel met to discuss the party’s strategy, especially in view of the impasse in Parliament and the Supreme Court hearing on the 2G scam involving Rs 1.76 lakh crore.

However, in Chennai, a defiant Raja refused to resign, saying he had done “nothing wrong” and that everything had been done according to the procedure set by his predecessors. He met Karunanidhi twice during the day amid speculation over his removal even as senior DMK leader and Tamil Nadu Law Minister Durai Murugan arrived in New Delhi for discussions with Congress leaders.

The Opposition has also decided to corner the Prime Minister after Raja insisted that he had “kept the PMO in the loop at every stage” during the spectrum allocation process.

Mukherjee had told newspersons after the meeting that the Government would make “any announcement regarding Raja only in Parliament”. However, according to sources, Mukherjee telephoned Karunanidhi immediately after the meeting and requested him to replace Raja with another party leader. During the day, a number of efforts were made by various leaders — including Ghulam Nabi Azad and Home Minister P Chidambaram, who talked to DMK leaders — to persuade the DMK chief to remove Raja from the Union Cabinet.

“A lot of efforts have been made by the Congress to convince and persuade Karunanidhi to replace Raja. A number of leaders have spoken to the DMK chief and those close to him,” sources said.

Even though pressure mounted to recall Raja, the DMK was firm that he had done “nothing wrong” and Raja declined to resign even as he emplaned to New Delhi on Sunday evening. Two Congress Union Ministers from Tamil Nadu come out in his support, asking the Opposition to wait till evidence against Raja was established.

Since his arrival in Chennai on Saturday night and return on Sunday, Raja met the DMK chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi twice at the latter’s residence. Former Union Shipping Minister and the DMK parliamentary party leader TR Baalu also met the party persident. After his 30-minute meeting with Karunanidhi, Raja reiterated he had done nothing wrong and that he did not discuss resignation with Karunanidhi as “the question never arose”.

BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar described Raja’s resignation as a “victory of the people”.

Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan said the Congress’ crucial alliance with the DMK remained unchanged, ending speculation over whether Karunanidhi would exit the UPA Government, which it currently supports with 18 MPs. Karunanidhi was worried about how the dismissal of Raja, a dalit leader, would be perceived by voters in the State. Tamil Nadu votes in a few months for its next Government. The DMK still maintains that Raja has done no wrong.

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