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Raja arrested, but UPA can't breathe easy
The Opposition is adamant on its demand for a JPC into the 2G spectrum scam.
New Delhi: The arrest of former telecom minister A Raja in the 2G spectrum scam by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is being seen as a move by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance Government to take the sting out of the Opposition's campaign for action against those involved in the alleged multi-crore scam.
Raja was arrested on Wednesday afternoon in New Delhi just two days after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) supremo M Karunanidhi met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
Parliament's winter session was washed out over the 2G spectrum scam as the Opposition, particularly the Bharatiya Janata Party, insisting on an investigation by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) into the case. The UPA remained adamant and did not relent to the Opposition's demand leading to an unprecedented stalemate in Parliament and the Government was keen on not letting the Budget session suffer a similar fate.
Following Raja's arrest the Government hopes that the Opposition's campaign will lose its sting and lead to the smooth functioning of Parliament during the Budget session.
The 2G scam become such a millstone around the Government's neck that even the Prime Minister's Office was forced file an affidavit in the Supreme Court rejecting the charge of inaction on the part of Singh's office in dealing with the request of sanction for prosecution of Raja in the 2G spectrum scam case as the Opposition kept on targeting the Government.
In an 11-page affidavit, filed through Prime Minister's Office Director V Vidyawati, it was stated that there was no inaction on the part of the PMO on the complaint filed by Janata Party President Subramaniun Swamy seeking the sanction for prosecution of Raja.
Numerous other scams like the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society, the Commonwealth Games and Radia tapes gave more ammunition to the Opposition. But the 2G scam remained the big one with a Comptroller and Auditor General report saying that the spectrum allocation at undervalued prices resulted in a notional loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the state exchequer.
Reacting to Raja's arrest the Congress said that the law was taking its own course in the case.
"All the doubting Thomases who doubted the sincerity of commitment to take action as per law should have been silenced. Law has takes its own course in the case. We are not concerned about the innocence or guilt of the accused. All those who raised questions, should be silent by now. The credibility of the Government stands enhanced," said Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi in New Delhi.
Congress also took on the BJP with Singhvi asking it to act against Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa over his alleged involvement in land scams.
"BJP could have asked someone in Karnataka to step down. It is their double standard," said Singhvi and added that the arrest would not affect the Prime Minister.
Another Congress spokesperson Janardhan Dwivedi said that Raja's arrest would not affect Congress-DMK relationship.
"We have always maintained that party never comes in between legal procedure. It has nothing to do with our relation with the DMK. We have always said that investigations must go on," said Dwivedi.
However, the Opposition is unlikely to let the Government breath easy with BJP leaders saying that their demand for a JPC into the 2G scam remains.
"Our demand for JPC stands. The JPC will investigate other matters of how the minister was appointed. Some people allowed the loss of revenue to the state exchequer. The Prime Minister should not have lived in a denial mode and the Prime Minister should have acted earlier," said BJP leader Arun Jaitley.
Following Raja's arrest the Opposition is likely to target the Prime Minister with Jaitley already saying that the Prime Minister has been denying any wrong doing in the Telecom Ministry.
"Government was involved in the cover-up. Today's action is because of the media. The Prime Minister should not have lived in denial for three years," said Jaitley.
Calling the arrest of Raja as too little too late, another BJP Leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy said, "CBI is under pressure because of its non performance."
The Government did not do what it should have done earlier. The Prime Minister has to do a lot. Be it inside Parliament or be it outside Parliament, Prime Minister should answer the questions of corruption. The demand for the JPC continues. Corruption is the most important issue," said Rudy.
Janata Dal (United), an ally of the BJP, also remained adamant of the demand for a JPC into the scam with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar saying, "Our demand remains the same on JPC. It's good for everyone."
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief J Jayalalithaa said that action should also be taken against Karunanidhi and a JPC should look into the scam.
The Communist Party of India (CPI) said that the Government could have acted much earlier.
"Raja's arrest was expected. The Supreme Court has forced CBI to take action. Government has nothing to do with it. The Government could have acted earlier," said CPI leader D Raja.
With none of the Opposition parties backing down on their demand for a JPC, the Budget session is unlikely to see much camaraderie between the Treasury and Opposition benches.
Also states like Tamil Nadu, from where Raja hails, and West Bengal, the home state of Trinamool Congress chief and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, are going to have Assembly elections in just a few months with corruption going to be the big issue.
While in Tamil Nadu the ruling DMK-Congress alliance is likely to face a tough fight from the AIADMK; Mamata Banerjee is going to make corruption in the Left Front government a big issue in West Bengal. With Congress having major stake in both the states, albeit as a junior partner, it could not be seen to be silent on scams.