2G case special court verdict: A big blow to Modi’s BJP
A special Court acquitted all 35 accused in the high profile 2G spectrum allocation scam case that had questioned the political credibility of the Manmohan Singh government setting in motion a process that ended with the defeat of the Congress in 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The Congress paid a high political price as it ended with its lowest every tally in the Lok Sabha. The BJP became the direct political beneficiary of a case about which the special Court that facts were “artfully” arranged to create a scam “when there was none”. It did not only cost the Congress loss of political power but it also resulted in creating a feeling of policy paralysis and a financial setback to the telecom sector from which it has till date not recovered.
We must look at some of the important facts of the case. In May 2007, A Raja-DMK’s nominee- is made Telecom Minister in the Congress-led UPA government. In August 2007, the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) begins the process of allotment of 2G spectrum along with Unified Access Services (UAS) licenses.
On 25 September 2007, Telecom Ministry fixes October 1 as deadline for receipt of applications. The DoT receives 575 applications by 46 firms. On November 2, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh writes to his Telecom Minister to ensure fair license allocation. On November 22, the Finance Ministry writes to DoT raising concerns over the procedure.
Surprisingly on 10 January 2008, the DoT decides to issue licenses on first-come-first basis, preponing cutoff date to September 25 raising doubts over the process. In few months after allocation of licenses, Swan Telecom, Unitech and Tata Teleservices sell off a part of their stakes at much higher rates to Etisalat, Telenor and DoCoMo.
On 4 May 2009, Telecom Watchdog filed a complaint to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) on the illegalities in the spectrum allocation to Loop Telecom. In July this year, Delhi High Court held the advancing of cutoff dates as illegal on a petition of telecom company S-Tel. The CVC directs the CBI to investigate into the allegations if illegalities in the allocation of 2G spectrum. In October, the CBI files FIR against unknown officers of DoT, unknown private persons-companies, etc.
In 2010, contents of a Comptroller Auditor General (CAG) report claiming that the allocation of spectrum had resulted a loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the state were leaked to the media. The CAG reports are first submitted to parliament but because its content coming into public domain, parliament was rocked as, its proceedings were stalled for over two weeks by the BJP which was then occupying the opposition benches. The then CAG Vinod Rai propounded a term called “presumptive loss” to explain the humongous figure of the loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore.
A movement called India Against Corruption (IAC), led by social activist Anna Hazare and assisted by Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi, Baba Ramdev, former Chief of the Army Staff V K Singh erupted all over the country. The IAC demanded that the Government must enact to create an ombudsman called Lokpal to control widespread corruption. Dr Subramaniam Swamy was another person who was leading the campaign against corruption against the UPA.
The IAC had covert and overt support of the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS) whose volunteers filled up the places where protest meetings were held. Huge momentum was build up resulting in the enactment of a Lokpal Act by the parliament. The BJP rode on the bandwagon and it reaped huge political dividends creating an impression that if elected it would remove corruption from the public life and the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi emerged in popular mind as a savior of the Indian republic. The BJP won the 2014 Lok Sabha election with a clear majority and the UPA met with an ugly defeat with the Congress ending up at a historic low. Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister.
After the election, the BJP-led NDA government, possibly to hide its various acts of omission and commission, has not appointed a Lokpal until date thus making the entire exercise of the enactment of an Act redundant.
Anna Hazare has been silent all these years over his pet project of Lokpal. Arvind Kejriwal, who has been the Delhi chief minister since 2015, too has not been able to create a Lokpal. Kiran Bedi first became the BJP’s chief ministerial face in 2015 Delhi assembly elections and then was appointed Lt Governor to the Union Territory of Puducherry. Gen V K Singh joined the BJP and now is the Minister of State for External Affairs in the Modi government.
Dr Swamy was nominated to the Rajya Sabha and was allocated a bungalow in Lutyen Delhi with high-grade security. Baba Ramdev’s business has been flourishing and is today one of the top earning entrepreneurs of the country.
Former CAG Vinod Rai was awarded Padma Vibhushan and is heading the Supreme Court appointed Administrators to look into the affairs of BCCI. He is said to be earning Rs 12 crores per annum as remuneration. Along with it, he is also heading Banks Board Bureau.
The verdict has seriously exposed BJP and Modi’s claims of removing corruption. The Congress has received a boost after its good performance in recently held Gujarat assembly elections. Attempts by BJP ministers like that of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley that the Congress should not treat the verdict as a badge of honour and quoting the Supreme Court’s order of February 2012 that cancelled 122 licenses fell flat after a clarification of former SC judge G S Singhvi who said that the two cases were totally different.
Verdict is going to influence the national politics in a major way as the battle for 2019 general elections has begun with a revitalized Congress throwing up a serious challenge to the BJP that until two months back appeared invincible. >
Dr. Satish Misra is a Veteran Journalist & Research Associate with Observer Research Foundation.