Futile flashback

No doubt, as CAG, Vinod Rai’s staggering estimated loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crores stumped the nation and put spectrum at the top of the heap of the sackful of scandals that marked Singh’s sleazy sojourn in power. But are we surprised by his recent ‘revelation’ that the ‘PM kept quiet even as the 2G scam unfolded?’

Let me quote, in those very words, coincidentally, from these columns written in 2011 on a scam that was enacted live, its roots and the honest, honourable humbug who made it happen.

Singh’s sorry song, Feb

‘ … Most of the averments of the country’s cleaner-than-thou CEO were appalling to the core. Listen to him: ‘Raja assured me that he has been transparent in all his dealings … that he had done nothing inconsistent with that promise…’ That was it. So, this supremely and scrupulously honest man, an economist of repute with a meticulous eye for numbers and notes in fine print, actually refused to play by the ear and was instead led by the nose …

… So what prompted such child-like naivete? Singh repeatedly asserts that ‘at that time there was no reason to suspect’. An honest lie, that! The 2G scam was not an expose post facto. It unfolded as it happened, in real time.

The possibility of a scam was very obvious, the shenanigans between the corporates and the tele minister were in the open, the impending scam and its modus operandi were predicted, the run up to the scam was documented not just by the media but on official stationery too, … the sham of an auction, the fifteen-minute first-come-first-served fiasco of ’07, et all were reported live …

MSingh himself was officially in the loop during the entire drama. Yet, the man says, ‘at that time’ he entertained no suspicions. What a weird Sardar joke on the nation. Still we are pretty sure where the bucks lie!’

Still one more to go!, June

‘… The genesis of the 2G scam lay in Maran’s stint as the telecom minister and his ‘template’ turned out as a handy guide for his successor: Cut to Feb, 2006 when the 2G spectrum allocation had attained critical mass. By this time Maran was quite well entrenched in the tele ministry. That budget month, the PM constitutes a Group of Ministers (GoM) to go into all issues related to spectrum allocation.

Within days, Maran writes to the PM that the GoM should confine itself to vacation of spectrum by departments like defence and leave the issue of pricing to the telecom ministry. His specious albeit self-serving logic was that otherwise the GoM would ‘impinge’ on the role of his ministry. He then virtually ‘orders’ the PM with ideas on how this should be done with an ultimatum that this better be done. To back his ‘request’ he quotes a previous private conversation in which the PM had reportedly assured Maran that spectrum pricing will be the prerogative of the tele ministry.

The scent of scandal was obvious. But the scandal which was just an abstract possibility in Maran’s mind became a reality, thanks to MSingh’s conscious ‘act of commission’. The PM promptly heeds Maran’s ‘request’ to alter the GoM’s terms of reference and lo, spectrum pricing was back on Maran’s table, much against not only the PM’s own original wisdom but in contravention of all established legal, financial and moral norms. Now, why did the PM buckle to Maran instead of standing his ground? What was the private assurance given to Maran and what was it that emboldened the latter to claim spectrum pricing as if it were his birthright? And is not the PM directly responsible for that birthright becoming a private legacy of the MK family, at incalculable cost to the nation? Will the clean PM come clean?’

The other side of honesty, Aug

‘… Singh’s claim of serving the nation will not wash. For, serving just one family and allowing colleagues to pillage does not constitute service. His bland and pious statements like ‘I am honest’ and ‘everyone must fight corruption’ ring horribly hollow. The nation on the contrary wants to know what he as an honest person and also as one empowered to guard the nation’s wealth actually did, or rather, did not.

Rather, how can anyone give the PM a premature clean chit when 2G accused like Kanimozhi and Raja are already asking for his interrogation on the count that he knew everything they were doing? In what way is MSingh ‘legally’ superior that he can remain immune to common sense and common law? MSingh stands indicted in the people’s court for making a mockery of honesty. So, let pundits debate if the PM post should be brought under Lokpal scrutiny. For the moment I can only say that this PM should be! Forthwith! …’

But alas, Vinod Rai’s belated book of revelations and our own bleatings apart, MSingh is as far from being an object of inquiry now, as he has always been. The honesty hoax is a great help, in or out of power.

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Jawahar T R