Did the Congress leadership commit a tactical blunder by sacking Maharashtra’s former chief minister Ashok Chavan over the Adarsh housing society scandal and seeking the resignation of A Raja in the 2G spectrum scam? A section in the UPA government believes so. The move in both cases has been perceived as an admission of guilt and it has emboldened the BJP-led opposition to launch a direct attack on the prime minister’s office itself, it feels.
The recommendation of the two-member committee of finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and defence minister AK Antony to replace Chavan should not have been accepted before a debate in Parliament on the issue, neither should have Raja been dumped in a hurry. That’s the growing sentiment in the party now as it redraws its strategy to combat the opposition onslaught over the joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the 2G scam and the Supreme Court’s (SC) adverse observations in the recent past.
Even UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi was of the view that if at all Raja has to be sacrificed, the spectrum issue should be discussed in Parliament threadbare. But prime minister Manmohan Singh insisted on dismissing Raja, thinking that the buck will stop there. His strategy, obviously, didn’t pay any dividends to the party. Rather it strained the ties with trusted allies like the Trinamool Congress and the DMK. The Congress top leadership is now making amends.
It has conveyed to the SC that it is not keen on a court-monitored probe into the 2G spectrum and Nira Radia tapes. It also made it clear to the opposition on Tuesday that it won’t succumb to its demand for a JPC inquiry.
It is becoming clear that the court may not resort to monitoring the 2G probe at this stage as the CBI gave a detailed account of the progress it is making in the Radia’s tapes running into nearly 2,000 hours. The attorney general of India, GE Vahanvati has taken a rather unusually strong stand in the SC in the past two days and it indicates a change in the government’s strategy.
Also, the government seems to have put the aggressive media on the back foot by selectively releasing the Radia tapes. A fair number of media personalities were found willing to help the controversial lobbyist in ensuring that Raja became the telecom minister in the UPA-II in June 2009. The tapes that have appeared in the media so far run into merely 10 hours.