Sunday, May 9, 2010

Not dalit-card - Its Raja-card being a safer bet than Maran or Kanimozhi card!!


King with the Midas touch 


By Aditya Sinha 

08 May 2010 12:45:00 AM IST



Tamil Nadu's Chief Minister, Mr Kalaignar, claimed everyone was picking on Union communications minister A Raja because Raja was a Dalit. "That is why dominant forces are levelling malicious charges against him," he mumbled.



Actually, the controversy arose when Raja fixed the allocation of second generation (2G) services of spectrum for mobile and other wireless services; Raja was alleged to have favoured two unknowns in the telecom field, Swan telecom and Unitech, by fixing the auction in such a way that no one else could hope to properly participate. The two companies — which had backgrounds in real estate, a field without obvious connections to telecom — obtained the 2G licences at throwaway prices, which they subsequently sold at hefty premiums; the government lost an estimated Rs 60,000 crore, say experts. Politically influential persons may have personally earned Rs 5,000 to 10,000 crore.



When such sums of money are involved, controversy is usually stirred up by business rivals. It could be that one or more of the big boys in telecom — Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications or Tata Tele services — might be interested in seeing the 2G scam roil Parliament so that, at the very least, they don't get hoodwinked when the 3G spectrum auction happens. Incidentally, the 3G auction has been postponed on several occasions; the Union Budget for 2009-'10 had counted on about Rs 40,000 crore accruing from this auction, and if Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee allowed the postponement of an auction that was going to make his job easier by Rs 40,000 crore then you can imagine how seriously Prime Minister Manmohan Singh views the controversy. (By Mr Kalaignar's logic, though, the postponement would have been anti-Dalit).



If a leading telecom is interested in exposing the 2G scam, it is not because it is interested in seeing Raja resign or go to jail. In fact, business houses prefer corrupt politicians to remain because they are easier to manipulate, and if something lucrative is around the corner, the business houses would rather have the same corrupt minister in the seat, but now at their mercy, rather than an unknown or inimical person take his place. For instance, the UPA-2 desperately needs Mr Kalaignar, having alienated the Yadavs with the Women's Reservation Bill and Sharad Pawar with allegations of food inflation and IPL tomfoolery; so if the question of replacing Raja arises then it would have to be with another DMK MP. At least one company, Tata Teleservices, would not want Raja replaced with textiles minister Dayanidhi Maran, as his brother Kalanithi runs a rival business.



Recently there was speculation that Nira Radia, the lobbyist figuring in Raja's tapped telephone conversations, is linked to Tata, but the Tatas have denied this. There has also been speculation that some telecom players would rather have Kanimozhi than Maran as communications minister. But in the murky politics of Mr Kalaignar's family, she's aligned with fertiliser minister M K Alagiri. Alagiri does not want younger brother M K Stalin, now the deputy chief minister, to become boss once Mr Kalaignar passes away, and had recently made a series of discordant noises (in between trips to Australia and the Maldives). For the time being, Mr Kalaignar seems to have pacified Alagiri; he was at Alagiri's bungalow during his recent visit to Delhi, and suddenly Alagiri is taking language lessons and attending to files. (Probably Mr Kalaignar & Son realised they could not accuse Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar of being anti-Dalit, even though she has loudly voiced her exasperation with Alagiri's behaviour, seeing that she is the daughter of Babu Jagjivan Ram).



One wonders, though, that whatever arrangement Mr Kalaignar has proposed to Alagiri, the chief minister perhaps would not want to upset the balance within his family; and the best way to do that is to keep Raja as a minister. (It could also be that Mr Kalaignar doesn't think his daughter has the intellectual wherewithal to handle such a lucrative ministry). The word from Delhi is that during his trip Mr Kalaignar met Congress boss Sonia Gandhi, and knowing that she wanted two of the six Rajya Sabha seats from Tamil Nadu that are up for election, he told her she would have the seats if Raja stayed.



This is admittedly a complex situation; which is why a simplistic explanation like saying that all of this happened because Raja is a Dalit is not only incorrect but also absurd. Telecom companies are pro-profit and not pro-Dalit, so their rivals cannot be anti-Dalit. The telephone-tapping agencies are not anti-Dalit. Nira Radia is not a Dalit.

However, if Mr Kalaignar really wants to call a spade a spade, then he ought to be courageous and question the Congress party's pro-Dalit credentials. The UPA-2 only under great pressure agreed to enumerate castes in the current census, the first time this is being done since 1931. One of the people against caste enumeration was Mr Kalaignar's great chum, Union home minister P Chidambaram, who argued that census-takers are not sociologically-sensitive enough to enumerate caste. (This was actually not a reason but an excuse). Enumerating caste is unlikely to benefit the upper castes; the gainers will be the backward castes and the Dalit populace. If you are a Dalit, the resistance to caste enumeration by Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram can only look anti-Dalit; yet Mr Kalaignar kept his mouth shut. (The Congress is fortunate to have a politically savvy decision-taker in Pranab Mukherjee).



Mr Kalaignar will get other opportunities in the coming days. Events in the recent weeks indicate Rahul Gandhi has given up on the Dalit vote in UP. Mayawati proved she is a better politician when she pulled out her garland of notes; she outsmarted Rahul on Dr Ambedkar's birthday when he flagged off several rath yatras by subverting his rallies; and she showed her indispensability to the UPA-2's survival during the Opposition's two failed cut motions in Parliament. She has the Dalit vote sewn up. The only way Rahul can hope to put on a good Congress showing in UP in next year's municipal elections and then in the assembly elections due in 2012 is to put together a non-Dalit coalition. He needs to do well in UP if he's going to be credibly projected as the prime ministerial candidate in the 2014 parliamentary elections. But to successfully put together a coalition in UP, he will have to woo backward caste voters and Dalit Muslim voters who are bitterly opposed to Dalits. To successfully woo them, he will have to make some symbolic anti-Dalit gesture at some point.



At that juncture, will Mr Kalaignar call him anti-Dalit? Probably not. He perhaps uses this tactic only when there's a threat to the goose that lays the golden egg, principled leader that he is.

About The Author;

Aditya Sinha is the Editor-in-Chief of  'The New Indian Express'  and is based in Chennai. 





Related posts:-

Karunanidhi's day-out to Delhi to save Raja..oops.. himself.

Kanimozhi and seven dwarfs - by Aditya Sinha



jayasree said...

How much sleaze can you spare, brother?


May 8, 2010 22:54

"My case is cleared, na?" said the politician who wanted to be telecom minister to the lobbyist for a telecom major four days before the present Union Cabinet was sworn in last summer. The middle-woman, Nira Radia, was coy and comforting in her first-name-basis response: "Your case was cleared last night only."

The truly touching aspect of the politician's piteous plea is a syllable, na. It has every shade of pathos, not to mention every variation of bathos, kneaded into it. The lobbyist is in command, and why shouldn't she be? She knows something that is privy to perhaps three or four people at the very highest level of the present government. She has a vested interest in telecom, and therefore a direct stake in the person who will run this department. The minister-to-be, A. Raja of the DMK, is in her debt, and he better not forget it. She does not convey how she knows the decision was taken the previous night, but she implies that she has intervened on Raja's behalf. Raja does not care whether a corporation got him this job or not. He is merely desperate to get it.

We know this today, a year later, because of some sterling journalism done by the television channel Headlines Today, which obtained transcripts and audio recordings of the taped conversation and honored the profession of journalism by doing the story. Text demands context for greater clarity. Raja is an intimate associate of the Karunanidhi family and Radia must now be the most famous middle-woman in the world. She is on the payroll of some of the most important corporates in contemporary India, both those with a tradition of grease and those with historic claims to probity.

Corporate warriors did not record this conversation, as a hapless Congress spokesman vainly tried to suggest in defense of an indefensible ally. It was taped by income tax authorities, who suspected Radia of tax fraud, with formal permission of the home secretary. Raja's phone was on tap; Radia's was. It was fortuitous that the six-month window of taping coincided with a general election and formation of a new government. This information has been available with the Manmohan Singh government for many months now. Its only response was to harass and transfer the officials, as it sought to protect politicians.

It is the right of partners, in a coalition, to demand their quota of Cabinet members, but the allotment of portfolios is the privilege of the prime minister. Farooq Abdullah, a veteran who became chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir in 1982, is not particularly happy with renewable energy, but he has respected the prime minister's privilege. DMK accepted a change in the other portfolios allotted to its ministers, but made telecom conditional to its participation in government despite the fact that Singh was reluctant to give it.


jayasree said...

Why was DMK insistent and prime minister reluctant?

Because both knew that Raja, as telecom minister in the first UPA Cabinet, was involved in a rip-off of incredible proportions. The Bofors allegations, which damaged the Congress in the 1980s, amounted to Rs64 crore. This 2G scam is said to be of the order of over Rs 60,000 crore or a thousand times that of Bofors. If you want to understand the scale of this rip-off, think of this. Sonia Gandhi has been pressing government to provide food security for those below the poverty line. Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has said government does not have the resources to do so. The cost of a year's food security is far less than Rs 60,000 crore.

The unambiguous fact is that Singh and Gandhi were aware of this, but chose silence because the price of disclosure would have been the collapse of government. DMK has leveled a cash pistol at the head of government, and the head has nodded in acquiescence because the alternative was to watch its brains being blown up. DMK blackmail has worked, and would have continued to do so but for the integrity of some journalists.

The most important question awaiting an answer, unless a large, interconnected, corporate-politician-media establishment protects the brazenly guilty, is: How did a lobbyist know of portfolio distribution? It is ironic that one of the reasons that brought the UPA back to power was a reputation for financial integrity, bolstered by the prime minister's personal image (which remains clean).

Radia was privy to specific details of the politics of government formation, much more than can be discerned by common or even uncommon sense. The tapes are proof of her contacts, at one level; at another, they also reveal the squalid civil wars within the DMK. The war of succession between the brothers Alagiri and Stalin is only one detail of a diamond-studded opera that is surely beyond the fantasy of any television soap.

This much we know thanks to a leak in government, possibly initiated by an officer who saw this option as a last resort. But think of the perhaps hundreds of conversations between minister and middle-woman that could not be taped. How much sleaze is stored in them?

Nothing, it is said, clears the mind like the prospect of a hanging. Judging by Raja's face after the story broke, nothing confuses the mind like the prospect of demotion, to paraphrase from Hindi, from raja (royalty) to runk (commoner).

— The columnist is editor of The Sunday Guardian, published from Delhi, and India on Sunday, published from London

jayasree said...

Why Karunanidhi can’t ditch ‘Spectrum Raja’

Shekhar Iyer, Hindustan Times
Email Author
New Delhi, May 06, 2010
First Published: 00:08 IST(6/5/2010)
Last Updated: 00:10 IST(6/5/2010)

When DMK chief M. Karunanidhi invoked the Dalit card to brush off the demand for Telecom Minister Andimuthu Raja’s resignation, no one in the DMK expected him to act otherwise — even if controversies relating to the 2G spectrum allocations were hitting the ceiling.

“Spectrum Raja”, as he has been nicknamed by his AIADMK rivals, knew Karunanidhi had to defend him.

Since he became a MP in 1996 and a Union Minister in 1999, Raja (47) learnt early on what ticked in the DMK.

Do exactly as told by the party boss, Raja often told close friends. “That’s the way you stay close to the DMK patriarch, and out of the rivalry involving his sons, M. K. Alagiri and M. K. Stalin”. The other ‘golden’ rule, Raja learnt, was to ensuring that “you contribute more for the party than for yourself”.

Between 2004 and 2009, Raja’s contribution to the DMK coffers was more than that of T.R. Baalu, Transport Minister in UPA-I, who couldn't make it to UPA-II Cabinet, recalled a party insider.

Unlike Baalu, Raja did exactly what the party said and his contribution for the DMK's treasury for the 2009 Lok Sabha polls impressed Karunanidhi, another DMK official said.

Whether it was destiny or fortuitous circumstances, like Baalu, Raja got close to Karunanidhi’s second wife, Rajathi and their daughter, Kanimozhi. They seemed to be quite impressed with his sense of “business promotion”.

So when Dayanidhi Maran was forced to quit as telecom minister in April 2007, Raja fit right in.

Karunanidhi was livid that Dayanidhi and brother Kalanidhi had become too ambitious, holding popularity contests against Alagiri in their newspaper, whose office was burnt down.

Raja did not take charge of the telecom ministry alone. Kanimozhi was to remain his "guide". He was focused.

His alleged underselling of the 2G spectrum (a designated part of the airwaves for use by mobile phone operators), which caused a loss of Rs 22,466 crore as per the CBI's estimate, surfaced.

Reversing Maran’s decisions, Raja did not auction the spectrum, but sold it on a first-come-first serve basis. It was not at 2007 prices but at the 2001 price of Rs 1,650 crore.

Whether it was directive from the Prime Minister or the TRAI, Raja did not see any hurdle in violating any rule. In October 2009, when the CBI registered cases against "unknown" telecom officials and raided his ministry for causing loss to the exchequer, he was unruffled. He said the PM was in the know of all his decisions.

Raja knew what he learnt as a lawyer in Perambulur, that his Dalit background was strong enough to dissuade anyone to mess with him.

Furore in Lok Sabha

The Lok Sabha was adjourned on Wednesday as AIADMK members created uproar waving newspapers carrying reports of an alleged scam in allocation of 2G spectrum and demanded the resignation of Telecom Minister Minister A. Raja.

The AIADMK members rushed to the well displaying copies of the newspaper soon after Speaker Meira Kumar called for Question Hour.

Left members also joined the members in the well demanding an apology from Trinamool Congress member Sudip Bandopadhyay for his remarks against CPI(M) member Basudeb Acharia.

Kumar's repeated appeals to allow Question Hour to continue went unheeded.

PTI, New Delhi

jayasree said...

Ready to face probe over 2G spectrum scandal: Raja. Again, repeats PDS rice vs. Basmati rice, insulting PDS system.


Ready to face probe over 2G spectrum scandal: Raja

24 May 2010, 1445 hrs IST,PTI

HYDERABAD: Union Communications Minister A Raja has said he was ready to face any investigation into the alleged scandal in allocation of 2G spectrum.

Reacting to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's assertion that action would be initiated against the Telecom Minister if he was found guilty in the 2G spectrum scam, Raja said, "It is universal truth that action will be taken against anyone found guilty (of corruption).

I am ready for any investigation but such an inquiry should get to the root of the issue."

Replying to questions by newsmen on the sidelines of the World Telecommunications Development Conference-2010, which he inaugurated at the Hyderabad International Convention Centre here today, Raja said all 2G spectrum allocations were made in accordance with the rules framed by the NDA government.

"We strictly went by those rules and recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. I am being targeted only because I broke the cartel in the telecom sector," he said.

He said TRAI recommendations on 2G spectrum allocation were currently being reviewed by the Union Finance Minister and the Prime Minister's Office.

Replying to a question, Raja said there was no comparison between 2G and 3G auctions.

"2G is like PDS rice while 3G is Basmati rice," he remarked.