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2G scam case verdict a DOUBLE bonus for UPA

Last updated on: February 4, 2012 21:12 IST

2G scam case verdict a DOUBLE bonus for UPA

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The court order dismissing Subramanian Swamy's petition against P Chidambaram is one more sign of the ruling Congress' stars starting to look up again, says Neerja Chowdhury

The two court orders in the 2G spectrum case in the last 48 hours have come as a double relief for an otherwise embattled United Progressive Alliance government.

By dismissing Subramanian Swamy's petition -- it sought to make the then finance minister and current Home Minister P Chidambaram a co-accused in the 2G scam, along with former telecom minister A Raja -- the trial court has not just given a respite to Chidambaram but also provided huge relief to the Congress party and a beleaguered UPA government.

Anything other than a dismissal of the petition would have proved to be problematic for Chidambaram. The court did not find any criminal culpability on the part of Chidambaram and did not touch on areas which had to do with the question of his moral accountability and the failure of the government to stop Raja in what turned out to be biggest post-Independence scam the country has witnessed. 

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Image: Home Minister P Chidambaram


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The dust may now begin to settle down

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The trial court did not censure Chidambaram for any of his acts of omission, and did not ask why he did not stop Raja from doing what he did. This could have entailed a further inquiry, making it untenable for the home minister to continue.

It goes without saying that the exit of the country's home minister on an issue like 2G scam would have not only meant huge embarrassment for the government, it would have intensified the heat on the prime minister, given the Opposition another weapon to beat the Congress with in the ongoing elections in Uttar Pradesh and aggravated policy paralysis and decision-making at the top.

Though Dr Swamy has threatened to go in appeal to the high court and the Supreme Court if necessary -- and that will be a prolonged legal battle which may well go on till the next general elections -- and the case against Raja will continue, the dust may now begin to settle down in the 2G matter.

More so as Justice Saini's order follows the verdict of the Supreme Court, which took a tough stand and cancelled the 122 licences given by Raja, penalising the errant companies that had made a killing. 

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Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh


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Public anger may lose some of its sting

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Though the Supreme Court's verdict was a major castigation of the government's policy, and decision-making processes, in another way, came as a blessing for the government.

Had Justice Saini's order come without the cancellation of the licences, there might have been a greater reaction to the letting off of the home minister at the popular level. With the cancellation of the licences, the public anger may lose some of its sting, as some punishment has followed an offence.

There could be another bonus for the government. If the 2G spectrum is now auctioned, as the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has already indicated that it will be, the government could mop up anything to the tune of Rs 2 lakh crore. This will be good news for the cash strapped finance ministry, which is grappling with a fiscal deficit.    

On the flipside, it is not yet clear if the trial court verdict will in any way ease things in the case of A Raja, who has been in prison for almost a year. 

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Image: Former telecom minister A Raja


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Congress may get another opportunity

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The Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam has already expressed resentment at the  way Congress leaders have put all the blame for the scam at Raja's door, and several voices in the DMK's general council, the party's apex decision-making body, had called for a severance of its relationship with the Congress which had "let down" its Dravidian ally.

A break is however easier said than done, given the weak state of the party. Out of power in Tamil Nadu, it may not want to go out of power at the Centre. But it could make things difficult for the Congress in the budget session of Parliament.

But overall, Saturday's court order is one more sign of the ruling Congress's stars starting to look up again. It may get another opportunity to put its house in order if it wins some of the states which have just gone to polls -- like Punjab and Uttarakhand -- and fares respectably in the Uttar Pradesh polls, billed as the mother of all elections.


Image: Parliament House


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