New Delhi: Kapil Sibal, Minister for Human Resources Development, has been given additional charge of the Telecom Ministry.
A Raja resigned as Telecom Minister on Sunday night after a glut of accusations over his alleged corruption and pivotal role in the 2G scam. By Monday evening all formalities were complete with the President accepting his resignation. (Read: Raja resigns, DMK says it's still part of Union Government)
Last week, Sibal was given additional charge of Science and Technology after Prithviraj Chavan was moved to Maharashtra as the chief minister following Ashok Chavan's dismissal on the grounds of misusing his office to corner apartments for his family in a building that was meant to house war widows and defence veterans.
The DMK - which had till last evening resisted Raja's exit - may not be entirely pleased with the Telecom portfolio not being assigned to another DMK leader. After Raja resigned, both the Congress and the DMK have stressed that their alliance remains intact, and that the DMK will continue to participate in the UPA government at the Centre.
T R Baalu of the DMK said that Sibal's appointment could be a "stop-gap arrangement".
"No one has any say on the issue except the Prime Minister. As such, our leader (M Karunanidhi) has not given any name to succeed Raja to the Prime Minister," he said to PTI.
"DMK has three cabinet slots in the UPA government and with the exit of Raja, one slot is vacant," he added. "Our leader will take a decision on the successor after consultations with senior party leaders and then convey the name to the Prime Minister."
Opposition demands JPC inquiry
In Parliament, the Opposition once again demanded - chanted in unison, in fact - "We want a JPC (joint parliamentary committee)." The government, however, emphatically ruled this out. "Where is the need for the PM to speak on Raja?" said Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. (Read: Lok Sabha: Opposition chants 'We want JPC')
Raja was forced towards the exit door of his ministry mainly by a report of the government's auditor that was leaked last week to the media. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) was ferocious in its indictment of Raja, accusing him of costing the government close to 1.76 lakh crores. Policies that violated official guidelines and favouritism towards companies that seemed ineligible for 2G licenses were attributed directly to Raja. Till 2008, he chose to award licenses at rates determined in 2001.
Raja has stressed that his resignation should not be misread as an admission of guilt. His party, the DMK, has also maintained that it stands by him and believes he is innocent. (Watch: A Raja speaks after meeting the PM)
That crucial CAG report will, sources say, be tabled in Parliament on Tuesday. Mukherjee has called a lunch meeting of all parties in the hope of ending the impasse in Parliament - since the Winter Session began last week, the Opposition has refused to let Parliament function, protesting that Raja must go, and that the government should set up a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) because the CBI, which is investigating Raja, is not an impartial body and function as an extension of the government.
Dismissing that accusation, Home Minister P Chidambaram said that he CAG report will be examined, as its meant to, by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which is headed by a Leader of the Opposition.
"A JPC is not needed because the 2G scam - and the CAG report - will be studied by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which is headed by a member of the Opposition, and is therefore held to be impartial," said Chidambaram. (Watch: Chidambaram rejects demand for JPC probe) | (Read: Govt says JPC demand in 2G scam 'meaningless')
The PM was expected to address Parliament today on Raja's resignation and the 2G scam, but the government apparently re-thought the issue this morning. "Why should the PM speak?" asked Mukherjee. "In an attempt to turn the tables on the BJP, he referred to the Tehelka expose and said, "When George Fernandes resigned, did Vajpayee make a statement?"
WHAT IS THE 2G SCAM?
• 2G licenses issued in the year 2008 at 2001 prices
• Raja insisted on 'first come-first served' policy
• 9 companies got licenses for nearly Rs. 10, 800 crore
• Some firms sold partial stakes for much higher rates
• CAG: Govt lost between Rs. 1.4 & 1.76 lakh crore
• CAG: Raja ignored advice of Law, Finance ministries