Travesty of Politics


2G scam acquittals privilege Congress or disadvantage BJP only time will tell but it’s more probable that the CBI Court verdict has brightened possibility of DMK sticking with UPA

By Anil Anand

How prophetic is the BJP statement, in the aftermath of 2G scam case verdict by CBI special court acquitting 17 accused including leading politicians, that the 2G story was not over yet. The BJP’s perspective behind this observation was in terms of channels of appeal open to the Government to move the higher courts against the verdict. But this observation certainly has broader connotations as a political prophecy as well.

Yes the story is not over yet politically as well as legally. Flashback 2014 Lok Sabha elections; the BJP had drummed up strong corruption charges against the incumbent Congress-led UPA dispensation which became the focal and subsequent undoing of Congress. At the Centre of this corruption laden poll campaign was the 2G spectrum scam which got more wind with the then Comptroller and Auditor General Vinod Rai’s report projecting an astronomical Rs 1.76 lakh crore loss and BJP using it as ammunition to hit the “corruption ridden” Congress dispensation. It was not an actual but a presumptive and notional loss but nonetheless gave a big fillip to the BJP’s anti-corruption tirade against Congress.

The fact of the matter is that BJP rode to power in 2014 on the back of 2G ridden anti-corruption campaign that it had launched against the Congress. It became clear moments after the CBI special judge O P Saini delivered the judgements that took everyone by surprise, that the 2G ridden anti-corruption plank will remain as relevant in 2019 Lok Sabha election campaign as it was in the preceding polls though with a diametrically opposite context.

Instead of Congress the BJP would be at the receiving end on two counts; firstly the Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s strong bid to launch a counter-offensive, as seen in Gujarat Assembly elections, on alleged cases of corruption involving BJP governments at the Centre and in states and secondly projecting acquittal of former Union Minister A Raja and Kanimozhi, both DMK, by the CBI court as an attempt by the BJP to frame its political opponents through false cases of corruption and exploit public sentiment on false pretentions.

The judgement has hit and hurt the NDA government particularly BJP hard and where it matters the most. So the immediate far-cry by none other than Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was criticising the Congress for celebrating the verdict as he felt that it was not proof of the UPA government’s innocence. “Some Congress leaders are celebrating. They’re viewing this verdict as a badge of honour and a certification that the 2G spectrum allocation was an honest policy,” Jaitley further said.

It clearly indicated that the political slugfest has begun with 2019 Lok Sabha elections in sight. There is no doubt that the Centre would file appeal against the trial court verdict without any delay and both ruling BJP and Congress, spearheading the rival fronts, would eagerly wait for the outcome. However, whether the appeals would fructify before the elections or not it would be the higher courts’ prerogative.

Admittedly, the CBI court judgement came as an anti-climax to BJP’s high octane campaign both during last Lok Sabha elections and subsequently in polls to state Assemblies which was squarely based on portraying Congress as a party ridden with corruption with 2G scam backed with CAG’s notional findings as a highlight. The anti-climax flowed from the judge’s strong observation that the prosecution had miserably failed to prove any of the charges against any of the accused and the fact that BJP has been in power at the Centre for four out of the seven year pendency of this high-profile case before the special CBI court.

What has hurt the BJP-led government most is the special judge dealing a body blow to the CAG and CBI’s estimation of huge loss in grant of 2G licences as the CAG’s report was used as potent ammunition by the BJP to attack Congress. Ostensibly angling at the CAG, the judge observed, “some people artfully arranged few selected facts and created a scam when there was none”.

These observation and acquittal of main accused has taken the wind out of BJP’s sail even some might think momentarily pending outcome of the likely appeals to be filed. It has definitely changed the political discourse both from the BJP and Congress’ point of view. The developments are significant not only from Lok Sabha elections point of view but also coming polls to Assembly elections in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya.

The Congress and its UPA ally DMK certainly has a lot to celebrate on 2G verdict. Pushed to the wall due to Modi’s vigorously anti-corruption tirade particularly against the Congress the verdict has given the party much needed opening to hit back. Some may say that had the verdict come out a week earlier it would have impacted Gujarat Assembly polls differently to Congress’ advantage but it still has a significance in futuristic terms.

It has to be seen in conjunction with Congress putting up a spirited show in Gujarat and elevation of Rahul as the party president during the same time. Both factors coupled with the court verdict have shrunk the BJP leaders’ canvass to target Rahul as stridently as they have been doing in the past. But that does not mean that he would have smooth sailing.

It is well known that DMK was an important ally during UPA’s 10-year rule. It is also well known as to how the Dravidian party extracted its pound of flesh leading to controversies such as 2G under the then Telecommunication Minister and DMK leader A Raja. But Raja and Kanimozhi’s acquittal have also opened new vistas of power in this alliance era.

Prime Minister Modi calling on the ailing DMK supremo M Karunanidhi, during his recent Chennai visit had led to speculation on the former looking beyond late J Jayalalitha’s AIADMK for future alliances in Tamil Naidu. The two DMK leaders’, including Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi, acquittal has further given credence to these speculation as some enterprising analysts owe it to presence of Modi government at the Centre which wrongly raises doubts on the capability of the court.

Will DMK with a rationalist ideology join the BJP’s hardcore Hindutava based bandwagon or stay on with the Congress for next Lok Sabha elections? The coalition era and craving for power has blurred the ideological lines and as is proverbially said there are no permanent enemies or friends in politics. BJP-DMK coming together is a probability. It is ironic that the DMK leadership had squarely blamed the BJP-led dispensation for raking up and the arrest of two of its leaders in 2G scam, and now the same dispensation, as some feel, is being given credit for their release.

On the face of it the possibility of DMK sticking with UPA is stronger.