New Delhi: The perfect storm of the 2G scam broke especially hard over Chennai on Wedenesday morning, as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) conducted multiple raids at the homes and offices of those close to the senior-most leaders of Tamil Nadu's DMK party.
The alliance was tested when A Raja was forced to exit as Telecom Minister last month - at that time, however, both the Congress and the DMK said their partnership was intact.
But the precarious balance could be shaken by the raids at 34 places (27 in Tamil Nadu and seven in Delhi) that included senior journalist Kamaraj, who is an Associate Editor of pro-DMK magazine Nakkeeran, and an NGO in Chennai that enjoys the patronage of Kanimozhi, who is Karunanidhi's daughter, a Rajya Sabha MP and a staunch supporter of Raja's. The NGO Maiyam, run by Father Jegath Gaspar, organises the Chennai marathon and other major local events. Kanimozhi is a Director of the NGO. Sources say the CBI believes that the money trail in the 2G scam may include the NGO. An accountant who handles Kanimozhi's mother's business was also raided. Sources in the DMK say the party is not happy with the CBI inquiry now leading to the party's front door. So far, DMK chief M Karunanidhi has said that the party stands by Raja. However, he also said that if Raja is found guilty, "he will be thrown out."
However, the Congress says the alliance with the DMK will remain a strong one ahead of the Tamil Nadu elections next year. "These raids are a part of a larger inquiry. As far as our allies go, we trust them. The Congress president said recently that corruption cannot be tolerated. We want to provide honest and principled governance," said the Congress General Secretary Jaradhan Dwivedi. Privately, sources say that the Congress has worked out that the DMK is more heavily-dependent on the alliance. After all, they reason, the DMK would not want to deal with a hostile union government as the CBI's inquiry advances.
Because of the political implications, the Tamil Nadu raids could prove to be more significant than others conducted this morning at the offices and homes of PR executive Niira Radia and Pradip Baijal, who served for three years as the Chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). After he retired, Baijal joined one of several PR firms owned by Radia. Reacting to the raids, Radia's firm Vaishnavi Communications has said it will cooperate in probe. (Read: Who is Pradip Baijal?) | (Nov 14: Baijal on NDTV on telecom policies) | (Read: CBI raids Niira Radia, Pradip Baijal)
CBI spokesperson said several incriminating documents have been recovered during these raids.
It is the intercepted phone conversations of Radia with politicians, industrialists and others that have become the most controversial and some say significant part of the CBI's effort to determine who's at the centre of the 2G scam, alleged to be India's largest-ever swindle, and evaluated by the government's auditor at Rs. 1.76 lakh crore. That assessment - and the auditor's indictment of Raja as the epicenter - led to Raja's exit as Telecom Minister last month.
Radia is alleged to have served as a corporate lobbyist for clients like Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani. In 2008 and 2009, her phones were tapped by the government. In the Supreme Court, the government has attested that a complaint received in 2007 pointed out that in a matter of nine years, Radia's fortune from her PR companies was worth Rs. 300 crore. The government also said that the same complaint - it did not specify who filed it- suggested that Radia was working as a spy for foreign intelligence agencies. (Read: Who is Niira Radia?)
On Monday, the Supreme Court asked for a copy of the complaint, and warned that the investigation should not tarnish the image of any individual. The court said, "We make it clear nobody's image should be tarnished. Every individual has the right to protect his dignity." The judges also warned the media to report carefully on Tata's case.
"We would like to say that over the last three weeks, there were distorted proceedings of the court. So far we have ignored it. But don't take the risk of hauled up. Nobody will be allowed to play with the court. Use restraint." While acknowledging the role of the media as "watchdogs," the court said, "They should not cross the lakshman rekha..."
The investigation into the 2G scam has led to the longest-ever impasse in Parliament history. This past Winter Session, which ended on Monday, saw less than 10 working hours in both Houses. The Opposition insists that it will not allow Parliament to function till the government agrees to a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC). Given that a JPC would have the authority to summon the PM and ministers, the government has ruled this out. It points out that in addition to the CBI investigation, the Supreme Court is hearing different cases related to the 2G scam. It also stresses that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), headed by Murli Manohar Joshi of the BJP, has already begun studying the 2G scam.
CBI raids too little, too late, says BJP
The BJP has, however, described the CBI raids in connection with the 2G spectrum allocation scam as "too little, too late" and claimed its demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the issue was even more relevant now.
"The CBI raids are too little, too late. Hope this is not just a sham. The accused have got all the time to conceal relevant documents." BJP spokesperson Prakash Javdekar told reporters in New Delhi.
"Only a JPC can deal with such issues and that is why our demand for this is even more relevant. Only a JPC can check day-to-day developments of the probe," he said.
When pointed out that the Congress was demanding action against Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa who is facing corruption charges, the BJP leader shot back saying they were ready for JPC probe into the issue and it was the Congress which was yet to give its ascent.
(With PTI inputs)