Even as the Opposition’s demand for the exit of telecom minister A Raja grew shriller on Friday, his party leader and Tamil Nadu chief minister, M Karunanidhi ruled it out. “He only followed procedures set by his predecessors (in the allotment of 2G spectrum),” said Karunanidhi.
Karunanidhi did not see any need for him to even discuss the issue with the Congress. “He (Raja) is not a criminal. He just went by the procedures already set by Pramod Mahajan and Arun Shourie, who were telecom ministers before him in the NDA Government,” he said. “What is wrong in that? They came up with the ‘first come, first served’ policy. When Raja has followed the rules, how can you say he has flouted them.”
Karunanidhi’s support for beleaguered Raja comes two days ahead of a brainstorming session called by him to discuss the DMK’s strategy amid reports that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would take a final decision on whether to ask Raja to quit after his return from the G-20 meet in Seoul. (Singh got back late on Friday.)
By supporting Raja, Karuna-nidhi is seeking to preempt any suggestion to remove him from the Union Cabinet. The DMK chief was also making it clear all options are open to him: He could agree to remove Raja and nominate another DMK man as telecom minister, or he could withdraw all ministers in protest but continue DMK’s support for the UPA government from outside, DMK leaders said.
Dismissing the CAG report indicting Raja for causing a loss to the tune of R1.76 lakh crore to the exchequer, Karunanidhi said, “I know about the report. The CAG has given adverse reports about all prime ministers and chief ministers.”
The Congress has so far walked the tight rope by delinking the procedural aspect of the issue from its political dimensions. Party leaders, including general secretary Janardan Dwivedi, have repeatedly said that “The concerned minister is not from our party. He is a member of our alliance partner. It is for that party to decide.”
Said Parliamentary Affairs Minister P K Bansal: “CAG report is yet to be finalised. The matter will then rest with the Public Accounts Committee which will look into it.”