Raja’s out, but battle only half won in India’s 2G row

So, Andimuthu Raja is finally out. What next? 

The answer might seem obvious: Get to the bottom of the 2G spectrum licensing and punish the guilty. In most developed democracies, political leaders would make the pledge to vigorously prosecute the wrongdoers. Our leaders rarely do, and even when they do, it is rarely to be taken seriously, or even believed.

Many in the media – from several television channels to one English daily edited by a BJP member of Parliament – are claiming Raja’s resignation as their own success. Regardless, it’s been a collective effort, and a monumental one, not just by the media but also by the opposition parties that pushed the UPA into demanding the telecom minister’s resignation. On the final count, AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa’s interview with TimesNow television channel, pledging the support of 18 MPs to the UPA government in order that it may sack Raja without fear of DMK reprisal, did the trick.

Left to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, a party driven by greed and inspired by corruption, Raja would never have quit. Right to the end, party chief Muthuvel Karunanidhi, a septuagenarian with a history of corruption charges, still defends his party nominee’s conduct. Raja himself insists, dangerously, that his “conscience is clear.” Whatever consciences our politicians hide!

Having said that, it is reasonable to believe Raja might be on rock-solid ground that he was merely following spectrum policy set by the previous BJP-led government. To me, the belief has been doubly strengthened since Karunanidhi took a day to review the leaked Comptroller and Auditor General’s report that apparently indicts Raja. What Raja did was remarkably clever. He simply twisted every procedure without ever touching the policy. This should not surprise us because our governance systems, in the best of circumstances, have more holes than Swiss cheese.

Only a merely moral goal has been achieved by ousting Raja. Much remains to be done to ensure the guilty are brought to justice. If anything, history provides us a cautionary tale. Our record of bringing corrupt politicians to book is poor, to say the least. To imagine it would change overnight is to wish away reality. That is why opposition politicians and the media need to keep the focus on the reports on hand – one by the CAG and the other by the Central Bureau of Investigation – and force Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s hand in tabling the CAG report in Parliament at the earliest.

I don’t normally favour walkouts and protests to hold Parliament hostage. But continued government dithering, and bids to protect the culpable, call out for such action. The opposition shouldn’t relent until the CAG report is presented in Parliament and the prime minister presents his government’s views and intent on the issue. I have confidence in the ability of our MPs to shout in Parliament, even throw things, but would be keen to see if they have the resolve to see this 2G spectrum scam through.