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In-law and outlaw

Chidambaram couldn't have in any way been responsible for the 2G spectrum allocation scandal — directly, indirectly or even directionlessly, writes Indrajit Hazra.

columns Updated: Feb 04, 2012 21:06 IST
Indrajit Hazra
2G spectrum allocation scandal

From certain angles on certain days, home minister P Chidambaram looks like my father-in-law. Perhaps it’s the well-combed black hair, or the measured manner of speaking of both these gentlemen that makes me find a similarity when there is none. I’m sure my mother-in-law and Mrs Chidambaram will be able to find flaws in my argument, my argument being this: Chidambaram couldn’t have in any way been responsible for the 2G spectrum allocation scandal — directly, indirectly or even directionlessly — since, by dint of his looking on certain days from certain angles like my father-in-law, he’s simply too clean.

Jurisprudence in this country, obviously, works along more rigorous lines. So in its verdict, a Delhi sessions court ruled yesterday that the present home minister, finance minister during the time the then telecom minister A Raja needed money desperately to feed his extended family, was in no way involved in the 2G spectrum allocation scam and won’t be investigated as a co-accused. I’m pretty sure that the special Central Bureau of Investigation judge OP Saini hasn’t ever met my father-in-law. But I can be pretty sure that m’lord would have said the same thing about him if the latter had been perceived by some nefarious quarters to be involved in some kind of hera pheri.

Not-so-enfant terrible and Janata Party MP Subramanian Swamy, on the other hand, not only looks like the father of the Berkeley student who shared campus accommodation with my cousin but actually is Berkeley alumnus Gitanjali Swamy’s dad. He, too, has well-combed black hair. But alas, Swamy brushes his hair back giving the impression that he’s a professional trouble-maker trying to besmudge people’s reputations just because it’s fun. And more importantly, despite his perfect set of teeth, he has, what in the language of law is called, ‘evil eyes’.

But before Chidambaram’s name was cleared on Saturday, the Supreme Court’s ruling on Thursday on the 2G scam was what got people most excited about. That Raja had acted alone, without being in cahoots with anyone else — not even former telecom minister Sukh Ram — was underlined yet again. People were rightly more concerned about whether the court scrapping 122 2G licences would push up mobile charges than they were worried about the judiciary doing the government’s policy-making job. (“The first-come, first-served method used was rubbish and an invitation to abuse. We must have auction. And while we’re at it, we should resell the fighter aircraft that we’ve bought from the French to another buyer for at least 5% profit. Frankly, this court thinks the Russians would be the best customer.”)

Any kind of goods, 2G spectrum or flat-screen TV sets included, will be cheaper if they fall off a wagon than if bought from a shop. So yes, the ‘first-come, first served’ policy, hitched to a ‘nudge-nudge, wink-wink’ MoU, was great for tele-density, telecom companies and above everyone else, us, mobile phone users. Which was why — despite reservations from some quarters more keen on fixing auctions or tampering with lots to dole out 2G auctions — the then-and-now PM and the then finance minister didn’t mind when the DMK’s hog of a Union telecom minister continued the ‘first come, first served’ policy. How on earth would they have known that Raja was doling out a natural resource to friendly companies for a crookish cut?

So all is well again with Planet UPA. All the ministers, the prime one included, have managed to convince the nation that they didn’t have a clue that someone from within their sacred fellowship had done to the exchequer what Ranjeet would be shown doing to helpless ladies in the Hindi movies of the 70s. It’s a pity, though, that I’ll never believe Raja when he continues saying that he wasn’t alone in the 2G heist. He just doesn’t look honest like my father-in-law.