"Let them ask", Sonia Gandhi is reported to have retorted when journalists asked her to respond to the opposition parties‘ demand that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should resign for his role in the coal blocks allocation scam (Coalgate).
"Let them ask", Sonia Gandhi is reported to have retorted when journalists asked her to respond to the opposition parties’ demand that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should resign for his role in the coal blocks allocation scam (Coalgate).
The PM is under pressure not only on Coalgate, but also over the crisis in the Joint Parliamentary Committee investigating the 2G scam, where former DMK Communications Minister Andimuthu Raja has claimed in a letter that Manmohan Singh and P Chidambaram were fully in the loop on all decisions relating to the illegal award of licences and spectrum to favoured companies.
From Sonia’s comment, it would appear that she and the Congress party are going all out to defend her PM. Consider what all is going on:
The Law Minister is under attack for allegedly seeking to influence the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). He asked to see the CBI’s confidential report to the Supreme Court on the coal blocks allocations made when Manmohan Singh was also coal minister. Both Kumar and officials in the PMO are supposed to have vetted the CBI report, The Indian Express reported.
The Chairman of the JPC, PC Chacko, has gone out on a limb to ensure that neither Raja, nor the PM nor the FM will be called to depose before his committee. He has also ensured that even A Raja is not allowed to depose.
These instances, and Sonia’s comments, show that the Congress party is closing ranks to protect their “honest” Prime Minister, but appearances can be deceptive.
The truth is probably this: the party is protecting the PM only because he is protecting Sonia Gandhi from being smeared with all the taints of corruption the UPA government is associated with.
Consider why the PM is so important to Sonia’s scheme of things.
We know that when UPA-1 allowed Ottavio Quattrochi’s bank accounts to be unfrozen in the Bofors scam, there was nothing in it for Manmohan Singh. Quattrochi was Sonia’s friend, not the PM’s.
We know that the 2G scam happened because the DMK wanted total control of spectrum allocations and pricing, for which the PM’s objections on this score had to be neutralised. Reining in the DMK was thus Sonia’s job, but she did nothing of the kind. This means the political complicity for the 2G scam is the result of so-called coalition adharma, and it was she who failed to act. Since Raja was back in UPA-2 despite the PM’s objections, it’s clear who brought him back: Sonia Gandhi.
In fact, Raja’s statement on spectrum pricing indicates that the PM had caved in to DMK pressure even before he (Raja) had entered the picture. This was done when the PM unilaterally changed an NDA cabinet decision which required spectrum pricing to be jointly decided by both the Finance Minister and the Communications Minister.
But during the time of Raja’s predecessor, Dayanidhi Maran, the latter forced Manmohan Singh to back off, and Raja makes a virtue of the fact that what Maran and Manmohan did illegitimately, he had in fact corrected by taking a joint decision with the FM on spectrum pricing.
In his statement, Raja wrote: “It must be noted that in 2006, spectrum pricing was taken out of the Terms of Reference of the GoM at the request of the then MoC&IT (Maran) dated 16.11.2006, and agreed to by the Hon’ble PM on 26.11.2006. This appears to be impermissible in view of the earlier Cabinet decision. In fact, under my tenure, spectrum pricing was in fact discussed several times with MoF and an agreed position was communicated to the Hon’ble PM.” (Italics ours)
Firstpost had commented on this point as early as in June 2011. The chickens are coming home to roost.
The PM was party to allowing a cabinet decision taken during the Vajpayee government to be overturned by the DMK Minister using political clout without a new cabinet decision – and this was what made it violative of the Transaction of Business Rules. This over-ride was clearly a political decision for which Sonia Gandhi and not just Manmohan Singh must take responsibility. It was what enabled the 2G scam, even though Raja appears to have played a clever game by using his DMK links to make both Manmohan Singh and P Chidambaram complicit in his follies.
Politically, the accountability stretches back to Sonia Gandhi. And this is the reason why she has to back Manmohan Singh, even though he has outlived his utility for her, and is now badly damaged in terms of public credibility.
Similarly, the Commonwealth Games scam involving Suresh Kalmadi was also a party issue – only Sonia Gandhi could have controlled Kalmadi, but didn’t. The VK Shunglu committee also pointed a finger at Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit in some of the scandalous project costs, but once again, Sonia did not act against her. The PM could hardly have asked Dikshit to go himself.
As for Coalgate, where licences for coal blocks were given away free to all kinds of comers, it happened right under Manmohan Singh’s nose. He failed to implement his own policy of creating a proper system for the award of mines, and the Comptroller and Auditor General made caustic remarks on the subject. There is no ally like DMK to blame here.
Among other things, the CAG report last year on Coalgate said: “There was nothing on record in the said minutes or in other documents on any comparative evaluation of the applicants for a coal block which was relied upon by the screening committee. Minutes of the screening committee did not indicate how each one of the applicants for a particular coal block was evaluated. Thus, a transparent method for allocation of coal blocks was not followed by the screening committee.”
Now, unless you want to argue that Manmohan Singh allowed such things to take place, which means he himself is guilty, the obvious conclusion is that he did nothing to stop the loot because larger political considerations were involved.
Once again, the finger cannot but point to the Congress party bosses.
It is an open secret that few people in the Congress party now care much about Manmohan Singh. But if they are still fighting to protect him from opposition attacks, it must be because of orders from the top for reasons that have nothing to do with the PM. It is not Manmohan Singh that Sonia Gandhi is trying to protect; rather it is Sonia and the party that Manmohan Singh is trying to protect.
The writer is editor-in-chief, digital and publishing, Network18 Group