Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is happy to comment about the Supreme Court’s observation that grain rotting in Food Corporation of India warehouses should be distributed to the needy (his comment was to the effect that the court doesn’t really get the issue), but he is equally happy to duck questions raised by the court on one of the most controversial members of his cabinet. Interestingly, his grounds for doing so was that the matter was before the court.
Last week, the Supreme Court had some harsh words for the government and, in effect, asked it how A. Raja, alleged to be behind the latest scam in the telecom space, was still the country’s telecom minister.
It isn’t just the court that is surprised by the continuance in office of the telecom minister, a member of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, a key Congress ally in the United Progressive Alliance government. This newspaper, among others, has pointed out that there seem to have been several irregularities in how the last round of second-generation, or 2G, telecom licences were issued. The Central Bureau of Investigation hasn’t made much headway in the case which doesn’t surprise this newspaper—it rarely does in cases involving a sitting minister. And Singh himself, renowned for his incorruptible image, seems content to look the other way.
There have been several calls from rival political parties and the media and, for sometime last year, it looked as if Singh was of a mind to oblige, but Raja has hung on to his post—no one seems to know how.
Maybe Singh and his government are hoping that the court will eventually deliver a verdict that effectively indicts Raja—making it difficult for him to remain in office.
If that happens—and even then Singh may still have to ask Raja to go because the minister doesn’t strike this paper as being the type to leave on his own accord—the Prime Minister will do well to remember that his standing as the clean head of a clean government would have taken another hit it can ill afford to.
How can the irregularities in the 2G telecom licence issues be addressed? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org