A decade after corruption charges on the allocation of 2G spectrum brought down the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government in Tamil Nadu, the issue has resurfaced ahead of the 2021 elections in Tamil Nadu with two rival Dravidian parties exchanging war of words over the alleged scam that took place during United Progressive Alliance government.
A BJP leader has added a spin saying the decision on the pending CBI appeal against acquittal of A Raja, main accused in the case and former union telecom minister, would be out soon.
For more than a week, All Indian Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) have accused each other of corruption. Chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami had charged former union telecom minister and DMK MP, A Raja, of shaming the state and country because of the ‘2G scam’. “Corruption in 2G is equivalent to the state budget,” said Palaniswami.
Raja held the telecom portfolio in the Congress-led government’s second term at the Centre. Raja was arrested in 2011 but a trial court verdict by judge OP Saini acquitted him of all charges along with other accused, including DMK MP Kanimozhi in 2017.
The opposition DMK retaliated that while charges against them had proved false in the court of law, it was AIADMK’s late leader J Jayalalithaa who was convicted of corruption in the disproportionate assets (DA) case. Jayalalithaa’s close aide VK Sasikala and her two relatives, VN Sudhakaran and J Ilavarasi are serving a four-year prison term in this case, they said.
Raja challenged the chief minister for a debate and read out parts from the Supreme Court’s judgement on the DA case. “Call me to Fort St George (the state secretariat), bring your lawyers and anyone for defence, let’s debate in front of the country’s entire media on who is corrupt,” Raja challenged Palaniswami.
In the following days, he was backed by several DMK leaders including party chief MK Stalin. Since then, senior leaders, ministers and party cadre have been trading expletives on each other over corruption issues.
On Thursday, AIADMK’s ally, the BJP too joined the chorus with the party’s former national secretary H Raja warning his namesake that a verdict would come soon on a pending appeal on the 2G case in the Delhi high court. “Raja will be able to speak only till January 31st,” said H Raja. “The appeal is pending and the final verdict is yet to come. After that, he may not be able to talk for years.”
Earlier this month, the Delhi high court said that it will hear the CBI’s appeal against the acquittal of A Raja and others accused in the case. A report of the Comptroller and Auditor General had pegged a loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the exchequer in the allocation of the 2G spectrum – an eye-popping number with several zeros was imprinted in people’s minds.
Palaniswami also raised the Sarkaria Commission which was set up by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi during the Emergency when she dismissed the DMK government and ordered a probe into graft allegations during M Karunanidhi’s tenure (1971-76). For years, AIADMK has attacked the DMK of ‘scientific corruption’ believed to be used by retired Supreme Court Justice Ranjit Sarkaria. “Sarkaria Commission did not mention such a phrase anywhere in its report and special judge OP Saini described CBI’s 2G case as a choreographed charge sheet,” Raja said.
“This would not have been a major issue but for the fact that the hearings on the appeal are starting in January and you never know which way the verdict will go before elections,” said political analyst, Sumanth Raman. “AIADMK and BJP will keep reminding people about the hearings and that may bring 2G back into people’s conscience. If the matter had been lying in court, nobody would have made a big issue out of it.”