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22 May 2012

Last of the Mohicans of Spectrum Scam

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By Syed Ali Mujtaba


Former Telecom Minister and DMK dalit leader, A. Raja, who was arrested following the 2G scam, was granted bail. Accused of crafting and implementing country’s biggest scam, Raja spent 15 months in jail.


He was the last among the 13 accused that was granted bail.  This includes Kanimozhi, daughter of DMK Chief M. Karunanidhi.  She was earlier granted bail after spending several months in jail.  Kanimozhi has been accused of helping Raja receive a kickback from one of the telecom companies that he allegedly favored.


While granting bail to 49 year old Raja, the judge ruled that further detention of the accused would not serve any purpose and rejected the CBI's argument that he could try to influence witnesses to tamper with evidence. 


He was granted bail on a personal bond of Rs 20 lakh and two sureties of like amount. 
In his 14-page order, the judge imposed several conditions on Raja including a ban on his visit to his native place in Perambalur district of Tamil Nadu or the Department of Telecom which he presided over as minister for over three years.


Raja represents the Nilgiris constituency in the Lok Sabha. He had resigned as minister in November 2010 in the wake of the eruption of 2G scam into whose probe the Supreme Court had given stern directions.


The alleged telecom scam is believed to be worth Rs 30,000 crore. The charges against Raja are grave. He is allegedly to have given away licenses at dirt cheap rates to companies on first come first serve basis and that too to those that were ineligible.


He is accused of breach of trust by a public servant, a serious charge that could get him life sentence. Raja says he is innocent. He has implemented the policies initiated by the Prime Minister and then Finance Minister. He holds both responsible as they were aware of the policies he was implementing in 2008.


The Supreme Court has cancelled 122 mobile network licenses issued by Raja in 2008. The apex court ruled that the first-come-first-serve policy followed by Raja was distorted to help companies he favoured, that include Reliance Telecom and Unitech Wireless.


Raja is a popular leader from the DMK party. The party president M Karunanidhi supported Raja through his imprisonment. He was happy at his release and said that Raja remains the Propaganda Secretary of the party.


The telecom scam has definitely dogged the UPA coalition. The long imprisonment of Kanimozhi and Raja has strained the relationship between the DMK and the Congress as coalition partners. Whether the DMK will remain in the UPA fold, is something that remains to be seen in the 2014 general election.


[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com]

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