The Indian Supreme Court has ruled that Chidambaram’s role in the 2G scam should be re-probed by a trial court.
One of the most powerful and brilliant men in the federal government and the Congress party, Chidambaram has been accused by Janata party president Subramanian Swamy of being involved in the humungous 2G telecom spectrum scam, along with A Raja of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
The Indian exchequer lost US$35 billion, which was the difference between the money actually collected and the amount mandated by law to be collected.
Raja, who completed one year in jail yesterday, was the federal telecommunications minister, and Chidambaram was the federal finance minister when the nation lost the huge sum. Chidambaram has since then become the home minister.
In a much-awaited Supreme Court (India’s apex court) ruling which came yesterday, all the 122 2G licences handed out in India were cancelled. In fact, 85 of those who were given the licences were not eligible at all.
The court decreed that fresh licences must be issued.
In another critical judgment, the court said Chidambaram’s role in the scam should be re-probed by a trial court. A breather for him, though by no means a not-guilty verdict.
Swamy and renowned lawyer Prashant Bhushan are the important petitioners in the case.
Different political paths
Once, Chidambaram was Swamy’s student at Harvard, though the teacher does not remember him.
In the years that followed the university days, the two men have walked different political paths which have often collided. Strangely, each has tried to overpower the other.
As one writer said, the clash went beyond “personal animosity”, and “like weary boxers, both have been slugging it out with neither being able to deliver the knockout punch”.
Swamy might have hoped that the defining blow would be delivered by the Supreme Court yesterday.
The sock landed all right, but was milder than expected.
Before the court ruling, it was widely believed that Chidambaram would have to quit office if the judgment went against him.
The people should decide
Swamy has been saying that Chidambaram was as guilty as Raja, who refuses to ask for bail. But the government has been contending that Chidambaram did not play a part in fixing the spectrum price or determining the entry fees.
Yet, a note from the present finance ministry’s office to the prime minister’s office appeared to convey that Chidambaram could have averted the scam. This further strengthens Swamy’s argument.
However, it must also be pointed here that there is absolutely no love lost between Chidambaram and the present federal finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee. Both probably aspire to be the prime minister someday.
But will Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son, Rahul Gandhi, described as the heir-apparent to the prime ministerial throne, allow this?
In the final take, I would only wish that men like Chidambaram and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh step down and wait for the next elections – and the people’s decision.
Gautaman Bhaskaran is a Chennai-India based author, columnist and film critic, and can be contacted at [email protected] He is an FMT columnist.