In the summer of 2009, Dr Man Mohan Singh was a happy and excited man. His party has increased its tally of seats from 140 in 2004 to 206 in 2009. His alliance was close to halfway mark of 272 in Loksabha with 262 seats. What further sweetened the victory was his nearest rival BJP were down by 20 seats. Left parties that deserted UPAI on ideological ground did not count for much in government formation. Dr. Singh and his party chief, Ms. Sonia Gandhi were confident of mopping up the necessary numbers. This time, Dr. Singh thought he will be able to pick his cabinet that has vision, a cabinet that has clean image, a cabinet that will take his reform vision forward. However, two other people had different ideas.
Problem was, Prime Minister Dr. Singh was not inclined to accomodate demand of DMK to have nine ministers. Dr. Singh was also declined to accomodate Mr. Raja and Mr. Baalu. Dr. Singh was interested in Mr. Maran for a cabinet post and willing to accomodate Mr. Azagiri as a state minister. However, in the family hierarchy of DMK, stature of a nephew cannot become bigger than that of the son. So DMK decided not to participate in the swearing in ceremony of UPA II. So the victory was getting sour within a fortnight and creating a major headache for congress. However, congress could have gone ahead to form government by taking support of other parties, but they persisted with DMK. Besides, it was felt that DMK would come back eventually, because DMK government in the state of Tamil Nadu was depending upon support of Congress.
Why Ms Radia’s telephone was tapped was a different issue. Needless to say it was done with proper permission, the transcripts have also been submitted to surpreme court of India as part of evidence that Ms Radia was trying to influence cabinet formation to favor business interests of her clients. A transcript of Ms. Radia’s conversation with a prominent journalist of NDTV is given below, indicating her reach and influence. More such conversations can be accessed if one goes to the site of Open Magazine given in reference 2.
Ms. Radia obviously had build up an equation with Kanimozhi and Raja of DMK. She was acting as a conduit between congress and DMK during cabinet formation impasse. Never mind, she managed to get A Raja the job of telecom minister. DMK did not get 9 ministers, they got 7. Mr. Baalu was not accepted, Ms. Kanimozhi did not take any ministry. DMK got three cabinet ministers in A Raja, D Maran and Azagiri, and 4 state ministers.
Dr. Man Mohan Singh did his first compromise admitting A Raja into telecom ministry, despite his reservations. Dr. Singhs long four years had just started and coalition politics had started taking its toll on his great plan of taking Indian economy forward.
Almost a year later, painstaking work of J Gopalakrishnan of pioneer will expose that under Mr. Raja everything was not right in the ministry of Telecom. As explained by Dr. Swamy in the video above, Mr. Raja sold or rather gave away spectrum to his friends and favored ones. The price he charged in 2010 was nearly similar to the price in 2001. Mr. Raja was adviced to auction spectrum by prime minister. Mr. Raja followed first cum first served policy. Mr. Raja changed the date of application submission arbitrarily with very short notice, such that only pre-informed clients could submit necessary fees. Several groups that purchased spectrum had no expertise of running telecom industry. So they sold their licence to foreign bidder at three to five time the purchase price. Thus foreign bidders got spectrum at much cheaper rate and phoney operators got windfall gain. Later controller and auditor general came out with a scathing report that in 2G spectrum allocation, loss to public exchequer was close to 176000 crore rupees.
All hell broke loose. Opposition parties demanded resignation of Mr. Raja, formation of JPC to probe the matter. After much dillydallying, when surpreme court intervened and decided to monitor the probe, Mr. Raja was sacked and he went to jail. Joint Parliamentary Probe was initiated, and recently completed. It is another story that Dr. Singh was not interviewed, neither was Mr. Raja.
First year of long four year of Dr. Singh just ended, wiping out Dr. Singh’s smile and speech for remaining three years.
2. “Some Telephone Conversations: Inside the networks of lobbyists and power brokers that dictate how this country is run.”