Telecom minister A Raja finally resigned on Sunday night.
Raja met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after returning from Chennai earlier in the day where he had two meetings with DMK chief and Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi over two days.
Even after returning from Chennai, Raja kept repeating to reporters that there was no reason for him to resign. As late as Friday, Karunanidhi too had insisted that Raja’s resignation was totally uncalled for.
What changed the scenario seems to have been a call made by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee to Karunanidhi on Sunday morning following a meeting of four top leaders of the Congress. The stern call, outlining the consequences of persisting with Raja, forced the southern chieftain’s hand.
Raja said he quit to save the government embarrassment.
“My leader asked me to resign,” he said, adding: “I will prove to the people I’ve done nothing wrong. My conscience is clear.” While the Opposition, which had relentlessly cornered Raja and prevented Parliament from functioning for much of last week, described the resignation as their victory, the Congress heaved a sigh of relief ahead of a full week of the ongoing session of Parliament.
While the resignation will take the heat off the government, Raja’s troubles are not over. The next hearing of a Supreme Court case relating to the scam is on Monday. A public interest litigation wants the ongoing CBI probe into the January 2008 sale of 2G spectrum – at the root of the controversy - to be monitored by the court, to ensure the agency is not pressured in any manner.
A leaked comptroller and auditor general report earlier said the way the sale was conducted cost the exchequer R176,000 crore.
The PM is expected to make a statement in Parliament on the visit of US President Barack Obama and his own visit to South Korea for the G-20 summit. It is then that he is likely to announce his acceptance of Raja’s resignation.