Was the 2G scam the outcome of a fierce power struggle within the top echelons of the Congress, where two prominent ministers found an opportunity of dislodging Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, thus allowing the matter to blow up into a sensational scandal? Or did the former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), Vinod Rai, acting at the behest of his friends in the Bharatiya Janata Party, arrive at a grossly exaggerated figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crore as the presumptive loss to the exchequer in order to shake the very foundations of the UPA government?
In a tell-all book brought out by Har Anand publications and expected to be released next week, Andimuthu Raja, former Union Telecom Minister has lashed out at Manmohan Singh’s two aides T.K.A. Nair and Pulok Chatterjee, as well as his two colleagues, Pranab Mukherjee and P. Chidambaram, besides telecom corporate honchos and the erstwhile Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), Vinod Rai.
Although Raja’s version of events needs to be processed after thorough corroboration from other sources, yet his book makes several covert and overt references to the unfolding of the drama, which finally resulted in the fall of the UPA government in 2014. Like in books penned by politicians, a number of things are open to interpretation—the hostility and inconsistencies in the way Pranab Mukherjee and Chidambaram responded to the points raised by Raja in his meetings with them in 2007 and 2008 definitely suggest the hatching of a conspiracy by the two possible successors to corner the Prime Minister, with the clear target of forcing him to quit. According to A. Raja, instead of resolving the matter, the two ended up complicating the issue, thereby making the position of the government untenable.
The anti-Manmohan crusade gained momentum when he obtained a second term and his colleagues, who were not under his influence, used varied methods to intimidate and downsize him. L.K. Advani, who had lost out in the 2009 elections, perhaps played a part in activating the BJP’s “sleeper cells” in the system, such as Vinod Rai, thus adding to the subterfuge and intrigue. Raja goes on to accuse the former CAG of toeing the BJP line and to quote him, “it was from his shoulders that the BJP fired the gun to demolish the UPA”. In plainspeak, the UPA regime was left with a tarnished and sullied image, thereby diminishing and dwindling its credibility in the eyes of the people. The post retirement benefits which Vinod Rai has received from the present government exhibit his complicity with the BJP, and therefore, it is simple to conclude the reasons for making inaccurate and malicious calculations of presumptive loss with absolute disregard to the integrity of the high office he held.
It is evident that various people who have been shown in dismal light including Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukheree, P. Chidambaram, Vinod Rai, Pulok Chatterjee and T.K.A. Nair may react-cum-retort once the book is released in the public domain. Manmohan Singh, for instance, is portrayed by implication as an extremely weak Prime Minister, who had little or no control over his colleagues, but chose to distance himself from the supposed wrongdoings once they were exposed in the media. In other words, he was simply concerned about the preservation of his own image and would pointedly look the other way if certain irregularities, which did not have his tacit approval, were taking place. On many instances, he was kept in the dark by powerful bureaucrats in his PMO and very often, the two key officials attached to him, did not either apprise him of the overall picture or took pains to distance him from any controversial decisions that were likely to come up.
A day before the 2G judgement was delivered by O.P. Saini, Raja is believed to have given the go ahead to his publishers by approving the final proofs of his book. It is apparent that he wanted his side of the story to be heard even if the ruling of the judge would have gone against him. His exoneration by the lower court is likely to contribute to his rehabilitation in Delhi as the top man of the DMK along with the DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi’s daughter, Kanimozhi.
According to sources, Raja believes that the 2G scam was also the handiwork of established telecom giants who, dreading competition from new entrants, wanted the process to be halted in some way or the other. They, thus, contributed in propagating the canard that the DMK minister had indulged in unscrupulous practices while inviting newcomers into the field.
Vinod Rai’s presumptive loss theory is challenged through documentation, which shows that in May 2010, top government functionaries had concluded that there was no loss, yet less than six months later, the scandal erupted after Rai introduced his theory of a blasphemously colossal and mind-boggling presumptive loss. Rai, who is currently in the United States, is yet to respond, but a debate has already commenced on how R.P. Singh, an Indian Audit and Accounts Service (IAAS) officer of the 1979 batch, working in the CAG as Director General of Post and Telegraph, was coerced to sign the report by his superior despite the fact that he did not agree with the theory of presumptive loss. According to his daughter Vibha Singh, Singh suffered acute and prolonged mental trauma on account of his being forced to comply with matters he did not agree with. He died in December 2014.
If O.P. Saini’s judgement provided a judicial view of the so-called scandal that ruined so many reputations, Raja’s book would furnish a political perspective to the entire issue. Although senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy has categorically stated that the book would turn into a noose around Raja’s neck, the author stridently goes ahead to present the saga from his own point of view with the aim of shedding light on some fresh facts.
In Raja’s words, “Institutional governance is the bedrock of Indian policy making and enforcement under our fundamental constitutional tenet of ‘we the people’. Such governance relies on harmonious administrative protocols with amicable adherence amongst all the stakeholders. The 2G issue, as it was investigated, audited, charged and adjudicated by the various statutory and constitutional bodies (CVC, CAG, CBI and the Supreme Court) flouted these precepts of harmony and amicableness. The aberrant process resulted in the violation not only of democratic values but also the rights and reputations of various individuals thus tarnishing our country’s image on the international stage. It was an attempt to allege guilt of ‘corruption’ as defined by Transparency International (TI) i.e. ‘Manipulation of policies in the allocation of resources.’ Yet, A. Raja had established that their findings and observations were diametrically opposite to the decisions of the Cabinet, Parliament, Planning Commission and Telecom Regulator (TRAI). The purpose of this book is to caution the masses that personal motivations, institutional incompetency, misunderstanding or misguidance should not be hurriedly endorsed without diligent inspection. Government bodies are accountable to—and empowered by the people—and in the end all power is trust.” The author thus demonstrates here that the “2G scam” is a reprehensible blemish on the sanctity of the administrative system of our country.