2G: The “scam” that scammed India

<p>The main culprit is former CAG Vinod Rai, who had been alleged to have been influenced by veteran BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi</p>




Faraz Ahmad

Special judge for the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) OP Saini put an end to the presumptive “2G scam” on Thursday, acquitting the 19 accused, including former Telecom Minister in the UPA government A Raja and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) chief M Karunanidhi’s daughter and Rajya Sabha MP M Kanimozhi. The court found “no substance” in the charges filed by the CBI against the accused.

But, BJP’s purpose had been served long ago. The taint smeared on the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and chairperson Sonia Gandhi, on account of this 2G, meant that Congress faced one of its most humiliating defeats in 2014 national elections as it returned candidates to just 44 out of 543 seats. The electoral campaign of the BJP centered on the message that there had never been a more corrupt government than Manmohan Singh’s and Sonia Gandhi’s.

The main culprit, it can now be safely said, is the then Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Vinod Rai, who declared that the “presumptive losses” amounted to the tune of Rs 1.76 lakh crore. This, notwithstanding the protestations from the actual auditor in his team RP Singh, who denied any losses and held a press conference to allege that the CAG had been influenced by the then Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Murli Manohar Joshi to present a distorted report.

Vinod Rai seems to have been inspired by another former CAG TN Chaturvedi, whose report lent credibility to the allegations of wrongdoing in the purchase of Bofors gun from Sweden way back in early 1980s. There, too, after years of judicial procedures, the court couldn’t any substance in Opposition’s allegation of any money having gone to Rajiv Gandhi. But, the BJP did succeed in tarnishing Rajiv’s reputation and consequently unseating him in 1989.

TN Chaturvedi was duly rewarded by the BJP, first, with two terms in the Rajya Sabha and, soon thereafter, appointment as governor of, first, Karnataka and, subsequently, Kerala.. Vinod Rai, too, was appointed to chair a committee to probe the affairs of the Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI). The other member on the committee, Ramchandra Guha, quit and Rai found no fault with the BCCI. After all, it could have inconvenienced top BJP guns like Arun Jaitley and Anurag Thakur.

Congress is, therefore, justifiably demanding the prosecution of Vinod Rai. That may not happen, but this instance once more establishes that even the institution of CAG is not above politicking and needs to be made accountable for its actions.

Judge Saini, while writing down his 1,552 page judgment, made a scathing remark not just against the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which had alleged corruption in the distribution of 2G spectrum in 2008 to 122 licencees, but against all those who had made such a hue and cry about this so-called scam.

Without referring to the BJP’s “corruption” campaign, Judge Saini dismissed “public perception” and said, “Rumour, gossip and speculation created the public perception about the cases, but this has no place in judicial proceedings.”

Soon, after the judicial pronouncement, BJP MP Subramanian Swamy, an inveterate Nehru-Gandhi family baiter, who had initially taken this case directly to the Supreme Court, held a press conference accusing the previous UPA Government of not allowing him to prosecute the accused.

But, perhaps he did not read carefully the judgment, which said, “I may also add that for the last seven years, on all working days, summer vacation included, I religiously sat in the open Court from 10 am to 5 pm, awaiting for someone with some legally admissible evidence in his possession, but all in vain.”

“Not a single soul turned up. This indicates that everybody was going by public perception created by rumour, gossip and speculation. However, public perception has no place in judicial proceedings,” the judgement goes on to say.

So, Dr Swamy, for all his bombast outside the court, did not produce (nor he could for there was none) any evidence to substantiate his charges of personal benefit being accrued to the accused..

Yet, what is amazing is that the two-judge bench of the Supreme Court chaired by Justice GS Sanghvi and AK Ganguli cancelled in 2012 all the 122 licences and virtually forced out top multinationals like Norway’s Telenor and Middle East’s Etilsat. Both companies had invested huge amounts in India’s telecom industry. They withdrew, hitting India’s telecom progress and development.

At the outset, Kapil Sibal, who succeeded Raja, declared that there was no scam. Justice Saini vindicated his stand today. Congress party has demanded prosecution of Vinod Rai.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP are hoping to get some opening in Tamil Nadu by striking an alliance with the DMK. With Jayalalitha’s demise, her party AIADMK, though still in power, is so badly riven by intra-party rivalry that there does not appear much hope for it. The only other viable political force is the DMK and, therefore, if the BJP succeeds in striking an alliance with the DMK, it has a good shot at ruling Tamil Nadu, even as a junior partner. Last month, Modi went and paid obeisance to the ageing and ailing Karunanidhi. Kanimozhi was present during Modi’s visit as well. Stalin had to abruptly curtail his overseas vacation with family to welcome Modi at their home.

Modi’s hope is not without basis as the DMK did align with the BJP and was in the NDA government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the 13th Lok Sabha, though not for the full term. However, Stalin, who is currently the effective chief of the DMK has ruled out such a possibility. Besides, ideologically, they are poles apart.

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