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Blot on the Cabinet

Blot on the Cabinet

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: May 30, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/179515/Blot-on-the-Cabinet.html

Raja not right man for Telecom

The Prime Minister and the Congress were no doubt under tremendous pressure from the DMK to accommodate in the Cabinet those of its Ministers in the previous UPA regime who had distinguished themselves by making a mockery of ministerial probity and violating all rules for reasons that do not need to be elaborated. While Mr TR Baalu was dropped from the list of ministerial hopefuls to make space for claimants from the DMK chief's rather large family, Mr A Raja was more fortunate - not only was his inclusion made non-negotiable, Mr Karunanidhi insisted that he should be given the Telecommunications and Information Technology portfolio. The reason for this is not difficult to seek: Mr Raja brazenly misused his authority to manipulate 2G spectrum allocation; there is evidence to believe that he did not do so for altruistic reasons. It is unlikely he was the sole beneficiary of the scam with which his name has come to be associated. But whatever the DMK's compulsions, the Prime Minister should have stuck to his guns and insisted on keeping tainted individuals out of his Council of Ministers; the Congress, given its parliamentary strength, should have refused to cave in. Strangely, neither the Prime Minister stood firm nor did the Congress hesitate to capitulate before a belligerent DMK. Mr Raja is now back at his old job, smugly confident that he can continue with his shenanigans unchecked and unhindered. Hence, we can expect the loot to continue over the next five years in a Government presided over by a Prime Minister who, ironically, is perceived as 'decent' and 'honest' by those who voted for the Congress. This has nothing to do with 'coalition dharma'; it is all about pandering to those who do not attach a premium to honesty and integrity.

Given this reality, only the judiciary can now ensure that Mr Raja's disdainful attitude towards rectitude does not cause enormous loss to the public exchequer. He needs to be restrained and made accountable for his sins omission and commission. After all, what he has indulged in is more than just tweaking the rules to help a friend in need; he has rewritten them to the advantage of 'corporates' with questionable credentials. The Prime Minister may have no other option but to turn a Nelson's eye to the deeds of his Cabinet colleague, but not so the courts. As much was evident on Friday when the Delhi High Court, which is hearing a petition alleging irregularities in the allocation of 2G spectrum, scathingly commented, "We are astounded that the spectrum was sold like cinema tickets... We find it strange that the public exchequer and valuable resources were involved and wasted this way." What prompted this castigation was the Government's inability to explain in court the non-transparent allocation of spectrum, which also shows that Mr Raja's actions are indefensible. Or else the Government would not have faltered in so pathetic a manner.

The Prime Minister deserves to be commended for his choice of Ministers from the Congress and the distribution of portfolios. In fact, he has done well to drop certain individuals, including Mr Arjun Singh, from his team. And, there is nothing to quibble about those who have been inducted from the Congress's allies, barring, of course, worthies like Mr Raja who are a disgrace and will in no manner fetch accolades for the UPA Government. Hopefully, adverse judicial pronouncement on the spectrum scandal will force the Prime Minister to act decisively - and rid his Cabinet of its malcontent.

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