2G: The missed calls

When A Raja was granted bail one almost felt justice has been done. So how do we account for the sudden spurt of seeming sympathy? After all, is not the former Tele minister’s culpability firmly established? Well, it is not that we love Raja more. Only that while this decoy-Caesar took all the stabs for playing a bit part in the 2G drama the real Caesars lurking behind the curtains got away without a scratch!

Raja landed the plum telecom portfolio by a quick quirk of fate, as a fallout of the bloody feud in TN’s then first family. Fortune followed as the sector was just opening up. All of his shady shenanigans, from the rigged auctions to the sale of spectrum at throwaway prices to the subsequent share-transfers in the beneficiary companies are all now well known chapters of the scam history. But Raja was only last in the line, the final harvester, who just made hay when power shone on him. The real seeds of the scam were sown during the earlier reign of Dayanidhi Maran who however was not around to reap fully.

The scam was launched in early Jan ‘06 when Maran wrote to the PM for vacation of additional spectrum to accommodate ‘new applicants’. The PM ‘rightly’ passed the matter to a Group of Ministers and also very ‘rightly’ included spectrum pricing in the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the GoM. An aghast Maran who had other plans vis-a-vis, pricing, promptly shot back a letter to the PM asking for a change in the ToR so as to exclude the pricing issue. Maran’s wish was forthwith granted by the PM and not quite rightly this time, but we will come to the latter later. So why was Maran so keen on retaining the pricing discretion with his own ministry? Herein comes the Aircel-Maxis deal that runs concurrently with the aforesaid official parleys giving rise to legitimate questions on the connection between the two. All these are now public record.

The crux of the CBI case against D.Maran is that he, as minister, his brother and some of their media firms allegedly received illegal gratification running to a few hundred crores for various favours to Aircel-Maxis, besides money laundering charges. In legal magnitude, these are in no way inferior to the charges against Raja. But while Raja rightly faced incarceration, and is likely to in future too, there is not an inkling of such things happening to the Marans’. Beyond a few lame enquiries and tame raids, that caused nary a scar on the big brothers’ person, pride or property, they have remained immune, despite the needle of suspicion firmly focussed on them too! Worse, till now there is not a bark by the CBI hounds on Maran’s insistence on pricing, the scam’s genesis.

‘Stab me in the heart, but do not question my integrity’, lamented HM PC in Parli. The teary outburst was provoked by the persistent barrage by the oppposition and media over his son’s connections to the Aircel-Maxis deal and through that to 2G. But in the present political context whence the term integrity has attained a new meaning that actually negates the original, PC’s honesty act elicits suspicion, not sympathy. Journos hot on the 2G trail for long want to know why PC as part of the GoM and also as FM drafted to keep the treasury safe, kept quiet when Maran and then Raja went about their spectrum spree. Here too, documents hint that the happenings in Aircel-Maxis deal ran parallel to PC’s son’s business activities on the same front. Can the CBI even think of summoning the HM’s ward let alone arresting him? Indeed, the nation is running out of needles with suspects galore, most of them privileged! Raja looks definitely dwarfed!

But the 2G scam picture cannot be appreciated in full without due credit to the man who provided the canvas, the PM. Till date there is no clue (nor is the CBI keen to find one) on why MSingh post haste heeded Maran’s demands on exclusion of pricing, reversing his own decision of just a few days vintage, a reversal that set back the exchequer by thousands of crores. And this honest man is yet to come out with credible explanations on why he first denied and defended the scam and scamsters respectively and then beat a retreat later. Why is he not doing a Raja to Maran, both ex-ministers of the same scam-ridden tele ministry with their own roles in the scam, according to his own investigative agencies? Why is he not doing a Raja and Maran to his pet Home PC who is now under a similar cloud by asking him to resign and face enquiry, even if it be only an eyewash? The natural inference is that the scam had higher blessings and beneficieries. We sure need thicker needles to stab such big brave-hearts that can brazen out Constitutional duties, conscience and common opinion without compunction!

Closer home, hear out this call that the Government agencies failed to make. Kanimozhi is only a 20% shareholder in Kalaingar TV. But Kalaingar’s first wife Dayalu has a bigger stake in the channel and thereby to the alleged kickbacks for which D’s step daughter suffered jail. May be the CBI was honouring family ties. The list of such missed and misplaced calls is long. Raja, therefore, deserves to be as free as the rest of the 2G gang. So, let’s all rejoice at Raja’s release by saying … what’s the buzz word today? …

Aah, Satyameva Jayathe!

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Jawahar T R