“The BJP’s Political Height Will Be Diminished”: A Raja To The Lede
In the first detailed interview since the Special Court acquitted him in the 2G case, DMK’s former MP and Union Telecom Minister A Raja opens up to The Lede
By Sandhya Ravishankar
“The BJP’s political height will be diminished (by this verdict),” says A Raja, matter of fact and visibly tired on his third day of meeting enthusiastic supporters and party workers. “Their charges (of corruption) against us have become zero. They have not delivered on any of their poll promises either like the Rs 15 lakhs in everyone’s accounts,” he said.
Raja is back. And how! Reviled and shamed for seven years, accused of corruption in the 2G spectrum case, which the Comptroller Auditor General (CAG) at the time, Vinod Rai, pegged at Rs 1.76 lakh crore, a CBI chargesheet that trimmed the alleged losses to Rs 38,000 crore subsequently and 15 months in jail, Raja has almost single handedly won the case.
The 1550 page order by Judge OP Saini that was delivered on December 21, made a number of startling observations. At one place, the Judge writes – “Nonunderstanding of issues in proper perspective led to a suspicion of grave wrongdoing, where there was none, at least as per record of the Court.” In another, he writes – “The end result of the above discussion is that, I have absolutely no hesitation in holding that the prosecution has miserably failed to prove any charge against any of the accused, made in its well choreographed chargesheet.”
Two observations – that there was no scam and that the prosecution failed to prove any charge. When asked about this, Raja told The Lede – “The prosecution had no case. The charges were framed. I got documents from the PMO, the CAG and the Finance Ministry. When all the documents were poured before the court, the CBI realised they did not have a case,” he said.
Was Raja acquitted simply because the prosecution goofed up as the court order reads? “I never pleaded for benefit of the doubt. My case was simply this – if there is a murder and a body, what can my defense be? I can say I did not do it, Sandhya committed the crime. Or I can say I was not there when the crime was committed and I have no knowledge of the crime. But my argument was that there was no murder, the person I am supposed to have murdered is alive and in court! There was no case. The entire trial was a criminal waste of time and the judge agreed with me in court,” he said.
Raja went on to make his point. “It is very rare in criminal cases for the accused to testify. Especially when the accused is A1. But I offered myself to the CBI for cross examination for 14 days. I sat in the witness box and answered all their questions,” he said.
But the people still doubt the former Minister. Many dinner table conversations in the country have expressed disbelief and a lack of faith in the judiciary for exonerating Raja and the other accused in the 2G case, notwithstanding a detailed order. The Prime Minister meeting the ailing DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) patriarch M Karunanidhi on November 06, a little over a month ahead of the 2G verdict, fueled speculation that the Centre may have stalled the prosecution in its search for an ally in the southern state.
“If that was the case, then why did Arun Jaitley immediately begin shouting ten minutes after the verdict was announced that justice has not been done? If that theory holds, then why did the CBI immediately say that they will go on appeal? It is not correct. Indifferent observations in indifferent ways gave the CVC and the CBI a lot of gaps for misinterpretation. As far as Judge OP Saini is concerned, he is a person who will apply his mind and convict if there is documentary evidence. The prosecution had no documentary evidence whereas I had all the documents to prove my case,” he said.
Raja says he does not feel vindicated but is happy about the judgement. He does have some sharp words for the bureaucrats who he feels, created a messy situation. This was also an observation made in the court order by Judge Saini.
“The lack of clarity in the policies as well as Guidelines also added to the confusion. The Guidelines have been framed in such technical language that meaning of many terms are not clear even to DoT officers. When the officers of the department themselves do not understand the departmental guidelines and their glossary, how can they blame companies/others for violation of the same…”
“Large part of the controversy relates to interpretation of clause 8, dealing with substantial equity. The terms used in this clause include “Associate”, “Promoter”, “Stake” etc. No one in the DoT knows their meaning, despite the fact that the Guidelines were framed by the DoT itself. The interpretation of these words is haunting the DoT since these words were first used, but no steps were taken to assign them a specific meaning…”
“Furthermore, notes recorded by various officers in the files are in highly illegible handwriting which are difficult to read and understand. A wrong impression and understanding is created by such badly written notes. Furthermore, the notes are either cryptic, even telegraphic, or extremely lengthy, recorded in highly technical and layered language, which cannot easily be understood by others, but can conveniently be used for finding fault with the superior authorities for agreeing to or disagreeing from it, as the case may be,” reads the order.
Says Raja – “There are no proper understanding of policies within TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India), DoT (Department of Telecom) and other institutions. It is an institutional aberration. The Parliament, Cabinet and TRAI say no auction. The Planning Commission says telecom should not be treated as infrastructure. Suddenly the CAG, CVC and the CBI say auction! Thanks to this institutional fight I was in a mess.”
“I must bring attention to the behaviour of the officers (bureaucrats) – they themselves initiated the policies, they brought about the policy changes and then when the CBI came, they put the blame on the Minister. Can any Minister work in such situations?” he asked.
What then about the 122 licences that stand cancelled by the Supreme Court? If the Supreme Court found illegality in the licensing process, but the Special Court found no scam, who is right?
Justices Singhvi and Ganguly did not understand the policy and cancelled the 122 licences. Justice Singhvi has clarified that the cancellation of the licences was done on the civil side while I was acquitted on the criminal side. I think that position is not correct. I think the Supreme Court was swayed by the 2G report, said Raja.
Post the verdict, former CAG Vinod Rai, who was given a Padma award by the NDA government in 2016, has been pilloried by many critics. When asked about Rai, Raja refused to comment.
No comment was forthcoming either when asked about why former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram were not questioned by the CBI.
The final question was one being debated by news channels and media outlets since the verdict was announced. Will the DMK now be open to an alliance with the BJP, even if a post-poll alliance, in 2019?
“I do not think so. It has to be decided by the high levels of the party of course. But both our party President and our Working President believe firmly in secularism,” he said.