Sunday, 14 November 2010

DMK and Telecom

So A Raja has finally quit. After trying till the end to brazen it out, with the full backing of his party, the DMK. 
The strategy of getting former officials to come out in the open against him seems to have worked.
I am quite sure that these former officials did not speak out now because enterprising newspapers and television news channels are tracking them down. These people were very much in circulation and the media must have been in touch with them. I think they started speaking out after getting a green signal from the Congress/government. It was all part of the tactics to corner Raja into resigning on his own.
Or getting the DMK to replace him.
But what difference will it make if one DMK minister is replaced by another DMK minister? None whatsoever.
Raja was certainly not acting on his own or for himself alone. The DMK has a vested interest in wanting to keep the communications ministry with itself. Look at the chronology.
When UPA-1 was formed, Dayanithi Maran of the DMK insisted and got the communications portfolio. At that time eyebrows and questions about conflict of interest were raised because he was the brother of Kalanithi Maran, who owns Sun TV. The communications ministry is the nodal ministry for DTH rollout (which was on the cards at that time) and for the allocation of airwaves etc.
Then Maran famously fell out with his grand-uncle’s family and had to quit. But DMK continued to retain the communications portfolio and Raja was brought in. The 2G scandal broke out towards the end of UPA-1’s tenure and when UPA-2 was formed there was pressure on the Prime Minister not to take two DMK ministers – Raja and T R Baalu (who had been roads minister in UPA-1).
The DMK was not willing to give up both portfolios but ultimately succumbed on the roads ministry but insisted on telecom and – let’s not forget this – Raja heading it. Since the allegations under Raja were more serious than against Baalu (he was seen as obstructionist and favouring Tamil Nadu in the roads sector, though there were other whispers too), the Prime Minister was extremely reluctant to take Raja back. If I remember right, the Congress had said they would give Raja any other portfolio, but not telecom. But even that was not acceptable to the DMK. Ultimately the Prime Minister had to succumb to pressure from his party, which was being armtwisted by the DMK – its largest ally in the UPA.
Amid all this brouhaha, the focus was on getting Raja out. What’s being missed is that there is no talk of taking the telecom portfolio away from the DMK. In the light of what I have narrated, it is clear that DMK has a vested interest in the communications ministry. So if Raja is replaced by some other DMK person, the new minister will only continue doing what Raja was.
Raja, it is now becoming clear, brazenly defied the PMO on the issue of 2G spectrum. He clearly did this with the confidence that the government could not act against him. Any new DMK replacement will also do so. More importantly, another DMK minister will not allow a fair probe into the 2G scam.
If the PM wants to clean up Indian telecom, he must take the communications portfolio away from the DMK.
But realpolitik may not allow that.