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Raja ka Baaja

When the 2G spectrum hit the frontline of the national   media, a very old friend of mine who hardly understands jargons like spectrum, Antrix, inclusive growth and so on, wryly quipped: “Bhaiya Raja bajayega Baaja”. Almost 16 months later, his word has become prophetic and former union minister has once again proved beyond doubt that ”Hum to doobenge hi sanam, tumko bhi le doobenge”.

Defending himself in the court, A Raja proved what former Union Minister and AICC Spokesperson often used to say:  “Raajniti ke hamam mein sab nange hain”. Not only he defended himself stoutly saying he had only followed what his predecessors had been doing in terms of spectrum allocation, he went to the extent of saying that if the policy pursued by him was wrong, then all former telecom ministers since 1993 should be in jail along with him.  He also claimed that it was because of his policies that today even a maid servant and a rickshaw puller could boast of a cell phone!

However, his master stroke was that he was simply following previously established policies set by the union cabinet and both the Prime Minister and Union Finance Minister had been kept in the loop. He pointed fingers straight towards Chidambaram saying that “FM cleared stakes sale by firms in the presence of Mr Manmohan Singh”. It is this that  has sent the Congress party   in a tizzy and both UPA II Ministers like Kapil Sibal apart from Mr Chidambaram himself, AICC spokesperson Mr Manish Tewari and others have been making every possible effort to douse the fire and remove the taint on the PM.

While AICC spokespersons have taken pains to explain that the PM was above all these murky deals and his honesty and propriety cannot be questioned, Mr Chidambaram had fumed that “selected Ministers were being targeted by the BJP as the government had quickened the investigations into a number of bomb blast cases where right wing fundamentalist organizations were involved.” While Mr Tewari (known for his bombastic jargons and idioms) claimed that leveling allegations on the PM was like trying to speak on the sun, HRD minister Kapil Sibal’s diatribe was that “Raja’s statement was that of an accused trying to defend himself at the time of framing the charges”.

A lot has already been written about the details of 2G scam and every TV channel is dotted with comments, quips and quotes of politicians of every shade and hue on this issue. Sometimes, these statements have been aimed at scoring brownie points even if they were outlandish while at others, they have put the establishment in the dock and scurrying for cover. But they have certainly raised a few questions on the Prime Minister and the  former Finance Minister Mr Chidambaram all over again. The biggest point of debate at many circles is whether “Mr clean had already lost much of his sheen and whether Mr Chidambarm’s aura as Mr efficient had also been enormously dented?”

The Prime Minister had always maintained in various interviews and interactions with the media till now that he did not know many things that were  carried through in UPA II. He has feigned innocence even on the Antrix deal. However, the fact remains that UPA II would be remembered by the people for the largest number of scams ever. No Congress government in the past had to grapple with so many scams and scandals as the UPA II and yet the head of the Government says that he does not about many of those. That is a fact which many right thinking Indians would find it hard to swallow.

Dr Manmohan Singh is the second Indian Prime Minister on the top post for the two consecutive terms after Pandit Nehru. Yet the record of UPA II has remained rather dismal in terms of tackling major issues like poverty, price rise and other urgent national matters. He is perhaps the only Prime Minister who has been more concerned about his own image than that of his government. At the same time, he has been a Prime Minister with appropriate authority and often been a silent spectator in the Cabinet meetings where many of his colleagues have vehemently fought with each other over a variety of subjects. And yet, he had the audacity to tell that his Cabinet was more compact and cohesive than that of Pandit Nehru and Mrs Indira Gandhi!!

It is quite hard to believe that the Prime Minister would not be knowing about what his Cabinet colleagues have been doing in the name of the party and the government. It is equally hard to believe what  the coalition partners have been doing and he would still keep quiet in the name of “compulsions of a coalition government”. Or is that the fact that he has made his “helplessness” a convenient to ward off any attack on his competence and credibility as a lame duck PM. There have been many governments at the centre in the past. Yet No Prime Minister allowed his coalition partners to run amuck as both A Raja and Dayanidhi Maran have done in the spectrum auction.

It is this government which has increased the price of petrol at least 6 times in last 14 months and increased the woes of a common man. Isn’t it a fact that farmers have been the hardest hit during UPA government as seen in the largest ever number of suicides committed by farmers in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh? Isn’t it a fact that the UPA II government has not been able to address the problems and woes of a common man? Thousands of tons of food grains have been rotting at godowns and yet millions of people even today sleep hungry.

Dr Singh’s spin doctors appear to have taken a few things for granted and the overall bureaucratic lethargy and at times, sheer arrogance and cockiness too have been visible on many occasions. One of those worst cases was the appointment of CVC Thomas which kicked so much of dust and the government had to eat an humble pie.

When it come to P Chidambaram, on the other hand,  his own party colleagues have been accusing him of “intellectual arrogance” and ostrich like attitude on many things including the tackling of Maoist problem in the country. His record as the union Home minister has not been very exemplary either. The latest is the Mumbai blast when agencies are still grappling in the dark on the clues for the last 10 days.

When it comes to 2G scam probe, former minister A Raja alone has not accused him of his complicity in the  auction of spectrum.   Even Mr Chidambaram’s election from Shivakashi had been challenged not only by Janata Party leader Dr Subramanian Swamy  and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Ms Jayalalitha publicly called it “fraudulent”.

Dr Subramanian Swamy has already move Supreme Court demanding that if A Raja could be sent to jail for his alleged dubious role in the 2G scam, then Mr Chidambaram should also be dealt in the same way as  he was an equal accomplice in the whole game. The matter is coming up for hearing in Supreme Court in August and it remains to be seen how the apex court is going to deal with the matter.  People are waiting if the Judiciary would be performing its role to perfection in the name of natural justice and equality of all before law or otherwise.

What a common man does not want is the too much politicization of the whole matter. Unfortunately, the BJP as the principal opposition party has also started behaving like a “clone’ of the Congress culture and its own track record has not been exemplary either. While Mr Nitin Gadkari has gone hammer and tongs on the 2G issue demanding the resignation of the Prime minister but he has not shown the same kind of magnanimity when it came to Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddiurappa.  Mr Gadkari has also been blamed for his personal and acerbic comments against the Congress President.

Unfortunately, these political parties are not able to understand how these scams and scandals have again put the whole country behind by a few years. The process of liberalization and a more pro-active approach towards economic development of the country which began in the 1990s  appears to have stopped midway through and with more scams tumbling with alarming regularity, the people have started losing faith in the government and democratic institutions. Under these circumstances, the judiciary appears to have taken upon itself the task of policing our polity as seen in so many landmark orders and judgments in the recent past.

The biggest question is where would this lead to? Would the actual culprits ever be brought to the book? Would this country ever have a stringent set of laws for the corrupt and those swindlers?  It would also be interesting to see if the Court also summons Mr Chidambaram and record his statement in the wake of Raja’s allegations or it would just confine itself to the  set of charge=sheets filed by the CBI ?

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