The arrest of former Union telecom minister A Raja was not going to be a bolt from the blue. But when Mr Raja and two of his associates charged with “criminal misconduct” were picked up on Wednesday by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to be produced in court the next day, there were many who could be forgiven for thinking that this was the final chapter in the case that has held the nation’s attention — and held up Parliament’s business — since some time now. Mr Raja’s arrest is the start, not the end, of what should be a procedure to get to the bottom of the truth of arguably one of India’s biggest heists.
The Opposition has predictably responded to the latest move as being ‘too little, too late’. That is politicians being politicians. If one is clear-headed about the matter, Mr Raja’s arrest forms a logical trajectory that started with the Chief Vigilance Commission (CVC) finding lapses in November 2008 in the manner in which 2G spectrum was distributed, the CBI registering a case in October 2009, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) indicting the department of telecommunications in October 2010, and the subsequent ‘resignation’ of Mr Raja from his ministry a month later. To state at this juncture that the government is still obfuscating the judicial process is to be churlish and can be perilously interpreted as an open invitation to set up a kangaroo court to indict everyone from Mr Raja upwards.
This, of course, does not mean that everything can now be left on auto-pilot. An alleged crime of this nature and heft is unlikely to be the job of a few players. A system was breached and tweaked and there will be individuals who need to be brought under the criminal investigation to tell the CBI more. It is the CBI’s duty now to get and present the necessary evidence in court. The Supreme Court knows that the CBI has a reputation for letting things slide when its mood calls for taking its eyes off the ball. The court has therefore done the right thing to ask the CBI as well as the enforcement directorate to submit status reports into the case by February 10 when the case comes up for hearing.
It is imperative — both morally and politically — for the UPA to clear the muck of corruption that has been sloshing around it for some time now. Cooperating to ensure that an unimpeded and thorough investigation into the 2G scam case takes place is an opportunity for the government. The ‘tu-tu mein-mein’ of ‘A Raja vs Yeddyurappa’ being played out between the BJP and the Congress will lead to nowhere except into a deeper ethical cesspool in our politics. The CBI has been granted custody of Mr Raja and his two associates for five days. Let us now wait for more facts before making noises.
As for the government, it should remember that however crucial an alliance with a party with an 18-member bench strength may be, much more is at stake in how the 2G spectrum scam investigation pans out.