Allegations of graft are lapping at the feet of yet another former telecommunications minister, this one too from the beleaguered Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). Dayanidhi Maran is being accused of abuse of authority — charges similar to those faced by his successor A Raja, who is in the slammer pending investigations.
Mr Maran held the portfolio between 2004 and 2007 and is alleged to have engineered the necessary concentration of powers in his office that allowed him, and Mr Raja after him, to exercise wide discretion in the grant of mobile telephony licences.
With the joint parliamentary committee (JPC) summoning former telecom ministers, both Mr Maran and Mr Raja now face public scrutiny for out-of-turn allotments that may have benefited themselves and their party and for depriving the nation of substantial revenue through auctions of scarce radio frequencies.
On his part, Mr Raja has argued that all decisions he took as minister had kept the entire Cabinet in the loop and the loss to the exchequer was purely notional because India’s policy for mobile telephony had settled on a licensing system after a debate on its merits over spectrum sales.
Mr Maran, likewise, could marshal these persuasive arguments. But he faces a more sinister accusation of bullying a businessman into selling his telecom company to a family friend. If C Sivasankaran’s charge — that he was forced to sell Aircel to Malaysia’s Maxis — were to stick, Mr Maran would find himself in a bigger hole than Mr Raja is in.
Victimisation appears to be a bigger crime than patronage in the warped laws of Indian crony capitalism.
The DMK is paying a high price for losing its home constituency. Two of its senior ministers and the party boss’ daughter, Kanimozhi, are in the doghouse. The UPA should draw some lessons on how not to run a coalition from the unfolding DMK crisis.
A governing alliance can avoid the unedifying spectacle of regional snouts in the trough — and the eventual comeuppance — if it lays out rules on acceptable behaviour at the outset. These terms of engagement are, unfortunately, lost in the din of post-poll haggling. It thus falls on the senior member of such non-hierarchical groupings to lead by example.
Both the Congress and the BJP are reconciled to ruling in alliances. It is in their self-interest to give some sort of structure to this form of governance.