Trouble comes calling for the Congress

November 10, 2010

A man talks on a mobile phone near a hoarding promoting mobile telephones in New Delhi January 20, 2004. REUTERS/B Mathur/Files
Ashok Chavan and Suresh Kalmadi have been let go by the Congress. Who will be next?

The scams laid at the government’s door do not end with the Commonwealth Games in Delhi and the war homes scandal in Mumbai.

The opposition and the media, having tasted blood with Shashi Tharoor, Chavan and Kalmadi, now have Telecoms Minister Andimuthu Raja in the crosshairs over the sale of 2G spectrum.

Pranab Mukherjee, the omnipresent firefighter, has defended the government, saying the enquiry on the Delhi Games was instituted even before the opposition demanded it.

On the war homes scandal, his stand is the matter involves individual transgressions, not the government and hence does not concern parliament.

But a party that has been in power since 2004 in the centre and for more than a decade in Maharashtra may find it difficult to shake off responsibility for things that happened on its watch. Particularly when it comes to the telecom ministry. And that may not be good news for Raja.

Whether Raja stays, belonging as he does to a crucial coalition partner, or goes — the bigger question is whether the high-decibel drama will lead to anything substantial apart from a change at the helm?

The telecom sector has been a showpiece for the liberalisation and dismantling of the licence-quota-permit regime which promised to help growth and cut down corruption and sweetheart deals.

Yet the telecommunications ministry has always managed to leave tough questions for the government to answer under Congress’s Sukhram over bribery allegations, BJP’s Arun Shourie over favouritism or the present DMK nominee.

This despite the presence of an independent telecoms regulator in TRAI since 1997.

Time to tighten the nuts and bolts of the liberalisation process?

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