Indian Parliament’s winter session is facing a deadlock with the opposition parties demanding setting up of a Joint Parliament Committee (JPC) for probing the Rs. 1.76 lakh crore ($39 billion) corruption scandal of the former Telecom minister A Raja. The government has been mired in series of scandals this year, such as corruption in Commonwealth Games arrangements, as a result of which three top officials have already been suspended.
The telecom scandal has occupied headlines with the revelation of the government watchdog Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its report that the licenses for 2G spectrum were allotted at cheapest costs for a chosen set of companies. CAG has implicated the former Telecom minister A Raja, who resigned a week back for deliberately avoiding established procedures in sale of 2G spectrum to private companies.
The CAG report said the government has lost $39 billion because of not auctioning 2G spectrum licenses. Instead of going for auctions, the minister sold the spectrum licenses on first-come-first basis. CAG alleged that the minister took interest in particular companies. He did not give much time to other companies to place their applications, CAG said. The minister did not even listen to the Prime Minister’s suggestion that he should go for auctioning spectrum licenses as per the CAG report.
Reprimanding Prime Minister
As if that is not enough, the Supreme Court has reprimanded the Prime Minister for not taking action for 16 months on permission sought after by a lawyer through a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) to prosecute the minister. The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is considered Mr Clean among Indian politicians. A bureaucrat turned politician, Manmohan worked as finance minister in the Congress government from 1991-96, and introduced globalization policies for Indian economy. He is the most-sought politician by the western countries that have been pushing India to open up its economy for foreign multinational companies.
Mr Singh was supposedly chosen as the Prime Minister by the US and other western governments for the Congress coalition government that came to power in 1999, defeating the then BJP-led coalition government. He was brought in as an alternative to Sonia Gandhi, who declined to take the reins of the government as she faced criticism over her non-Indian origins from the opposition parties and within the Congress party itself.
Congress ranks consider it still as sacrifice, but the others consider it simply a ploy to bring in the US-friendly Manmohan Singh. Congress came to power second time consecutively in 2004 partly using Mr Clean image of Manmohan Singh. The Congress party is worried that such an image is getting tarnished as a result of the 2G spectrum scandal.
An affidavit is submitted by a representative of the Prime Minister saying that he did not remain inactive for all this time, but followed procedures. The affidavit said that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was looking into the matter and that he was waiting for the report from the CBI.
Interestingly, the lawyer Subramanian Swami, the president of a one-man ‘Janata Party’, has responded positively to the affidavit submitted by the Prime Minister, saying that he was satisfied with the response. He is the person who has been actively and relentlessly pursing the scandal case. His immediate expression of satisfaction with a single affidavit explains that he is not ready to pursue the case any more.
The PIL, which prompted the Supreme Court to reprimand the Prime Minister for remaining inactive for 16 months on a scandal of his ministerial colleague, is now likely to be dropped slowly, given the history of the lawyer. Congress party might have succeeded in convincing him to drop the case in some or other way. It remains to be seen how the Supreme Court is going to take the affidavit by the Indian PM.