In the end, kicking and screaming, telecom minister A Raja’s been removed from his ministry. If, as he says, his conscience is clear, he would have done well to step down at the first hint of scandal instead of causing such enormous embarrassment to both the prime minister and the DMK chief M Karunanidhi. The government appears to be in no mood to pander to the DMK’s sentiments and has given additional charge of telecom to human resource development minister Kapil Sibal. That Mr Raja gave out licences on prices negotiated earlier is in no doubt, but he hopes that he will be able to get off on the technicality that an auction is not a requirement unless so recommended. Given the sum of money involved, it is in everyone’s interest that this matter is resolved. In this context, it makes no sense for the Opposition to disrupt Parliament and demand a Joint Parliamentary Committte probe even before the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General is tabled before it. This is a case of jumping the gun. Had Parliament been allowed to proceed, it might have begun the process of unraveling what is alleged to be a mega-scam.
Similarly, the public might have been wiser on the moves to bring the guilty to book in the Commonwealth Games scandal. The catalyst for Mr Raja’s exit seems to have been the offer from the AIADMK supremo, Ms Jayalalithaa, who offered support should the DMK withdraw from the UPA government. Despite being a notoriously unreliable ally, the message wasn’t lost on the DMK that finally acted against the minister. But for a cleaning of the Augean stables, it is not enough for erring ministers or politicians to give up their posts after the deed. The probe — and if need be prosecution — must be seen through to the bitter end. One way of preventing this sort of thing happening so often is to stem the rot from inception. We are in an age of meritocracy. The PM himself is an exemplar of merit and hard work. We oppose needless reservations for jobs in today’s competitive world. Therefore, it stands to reasons that our policy makers too should adhere to the principle of the best man or woman for the post.
At present, it would seem that certain ministries are the stomping grounds of certain parties, extracted as a price for their support to one or other coalition. There are certain ministers who are all-rounders. But there are also many who are clearly either unsuited to or uninterested in their portfolios. Much greater deliberation has to go into who takes charge of crucial ministries and they should be awarded to those who are not only known for their probity but who will also make a difference to that portfolio. The Raja episode should occasion a rethink on portfolio allocation. This would be one way of ensuring that the political establishment is not furthered diminished in the eyes of the people.