New Delhi: At 47, Andimuthu Raja has come a long way from being a lawyer in rural Tamil Nadu. And even as the end of his stint as Cabinet Minister at the Centre came in a brutal rush after days of stalemate, it was clear that A Raja's political journey is not over yet.
His party, the DMK, has made clear that while bowing to the dynamics of a political alliance, it will continue to project Raja as victim. "Targeted because he is a Dalit," said DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi.
Raja is important because he is a Dalit leader, the most prominent Dalit face that the DMK has. Assembly elections are due next year, and the DMK can ill-afford to alienate Dalit voters.
Raja's being Dalit got him early breaks in his political career, like becoming Cabinet Minister at the age of 35 - in the NDA government in 1999. And he never looked back holding several portfolios both in the NDA and UPA regimes at the Centre. He became Telecom Minister in May 2007. And again in 2009, despite 2G scam allegations and the high-profile Dayanidhi Maran being in the race for the post, for being a rare Dalit DMK leader and for his loyalty to M Karunanidhi.
A Raja was born in May 1963 in Perambalur, Tamil Nadu, and likes to reminisce that he had to go to Trichy for an education as there were no facilities nearer home. In Trichy, Raja got a BSc and then his law degrees.
As an interesting aside, Raja writes poetry in Tamil. His literary skills are believed to have got him close to Karunanidhi, who too is a poet and writer.
Raja was a student leader of the Dravidar Kazhagam, the parent body of the DMK. From a block level leader he rose quickly and was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1996. Raja earlier represented Perambalur and now represents the Nilgiris constituency in Tamil Nadu and this is his fourth term in Parliament after being re-elected in 2009.
His catchphrase in that election campaign was "Oru kilo arisi oru rupa, oru hello 50 paisa" (One kg rice one rupee, a hello on the phone 50 paisa). As he resigned today, Raja again said, "I brought revolution in the Telecom sector."
The 2G scandal
Raja hit headlines for the wrong reasons ever since he allocated license for the 2G bandwidth in 2007 soon after he took over the coveted portfolio, adds PTI.
Raja has been facing criticism after he decided in 2007 to bring in new players and give licenses and spectrum as per the existing policy of "first-cum-first-serve" basis and rejected demands for auctioning.
After the licenses were given January 2008 at 2001 prices of Rs 1,658 crore, two of the telecom operators who got spectrum sold part of the equity at much higher premium.
Unitech sold to Telenor of Norway and Swantelecom sold to Etisalat of the UAE. This led to controversy as it was felt that the spectrum allocation had led to a huge loss to public exchequer.
Various agencies including CBI, CVC and CAG started independent investigations into the alleged scam.
The CAG has put the loss at Rs 1.40 lakh crore on the basis of new licences of 2008 and Rs 36,000 crore go giving licenses to existing operators for giving additional spectrum beyond contractual limit of 6.2 Mhz.
Raja had been pleading innocence ever since he was targeted by the Opposition and has been maintaining that he had just followed the procedures laid down by his predecessors.