2G: The Scam That Wasn’t…

Title of this blog post is borrowed from Cyrus Brocha’s popular spoof on current news and affairs called “The Week That Wasn’t” where he mocks various news events of the week.

Yesterday the 2G scam verdict was announced by the special CBI court.

In a major setback to CBI and former CAG, a special court in Delhi acquitted all accused in 2G Scam including former telecom minister A Raja and DMK Member of Parliament A Kanimozhi.

The case and the verdict was significant for many reasons. First of all it had created sensational news when it first broke out in April 2011. The case was one of many which created negative perception about UPA-II as corrupt and mismanaged government and paved way for Anna Hazare/Kejriwal movement and later BJP’s “Modi wave”. The case was also sensational because of outrageous claims which were too too big to ignore. The accusation by CAG (Comptroller & Auditor General of India) that there was a loss to the nation of Rs. 1.76 Lakh Crore (~$33-35 Billion dollars!). Look at the headline how it was projected:

2G_News

The case argued that there was loss to the nation by not auctioning 2G licenses and thus there must have been (or was) huge corruption and kickbacks. The Supreme Court took a note of this and immediately cancelled 122 telecom licenses, many prominent people (minister, MP, Corporate heads) were jailed.

After 6 years the Supreme Court ruled that there was no scam! All the accused were set free. Of course this is the trial court verdict and the matter would go to HC and SC. But the case as it stands today is important.

I had read in detail about how the loss figure of Rs. 1.76 Lakh Crore was arrived at. Right from the beginning I have maintained that the loss numbers were bogus. There was no scam to the tune of over-hyped numbers. Yes, there were irregularities in the process. But not a scam of the scale claimed. In fact if you read through CAG chief Vinod Rai’s claims you could see that there was no logic or conviction.

‘If it wasn’t for the figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crore, would you have read my report?

said Vinod Rai in one of the interview. Then at one occasion he said: “2G loss was pegged at Rs 4 lakh crore, I toned it down“. Contrast this with what CBI claimed as loss. Rs. 30,000 Cr. So there was no consistency in how to “value” the scam.

Moreover the case was no pursued properly and CBI failed to bring out evidence of any “scam”. The SC judge’s judgment is a harsh criticism of the CBI and the way the case was handled. Look at some of the quotes by the judge:

In his 1,552-page order, special judge O P Saini held that there was no criminality or conspiracy in spectrum allotment and said some people created a “scam by artfully arranging a few selected facts and exaggerating things beyond recognition to astronomical levels”.

Judge Saini also came down heavily on the CBI, charging the agency with shoddiness and approaching the case in fits and starts. The judge said he had “absolutely no hesitation in holding that the prosecution miserably failed to prove any charge against any of the accused, made in its well choreographed chargesheet“.

And these golden words: “For 7 years…I religiously sat in open court…waiting for someone with some legally admissible evidence in his possession, but all in vain”

How stupid can it get? This so-called “mother of all scams”. Now one may argue that the case was genuine but CBI messed it and didn’t do its job well. Let’s see, I hope Govt will pursue this in HC and up to SC. But given the harsh comments by the Judge, I would be surprised to see if there is any merit in the case and if upper courts give an contradictory verdict.

But look at the consequences of this false “scam”. It mobilized public opinion against the UPA and Congress in particular (they have never recovered from that blow yet). It strengthened the perception that UPA-2 was all about scams (BTW, the Coal scam, and the Commonwealth scams also were uncovered by CAG. So one can see how flimsy those cases would be). It gave way to BJP and Modi wave. It made Subramanian Swamy a hero-like figure in crusade against corruption (since he filed an individual case). And it established Rajeev Chandrashekhar, the formed owner of BPL Mobile and based on whose letter the “scam” was uncovered.

Of these Rajeev Chandrashekhar is worth discussing. I will do it in a separate follow-up post but let me articulate my position in brief. I feel Rajeev Chandrashekhar is no saint. He is equally dubious person. In his current role he is a BJP MP and majority owner of TV news channel Republic – yes the same shouting galore where Arnab Goswami puts 8 or 12 people in tiny windows and then constantly barks at them.

Rajeev Chandrashekhar, his role in 2G and his personal journey is worth elaborating on. Just to see 2G “scam” in perspective. Well, as of now it’s the scam that wasn’t…

 

 

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