A Raja unplugged on Vinod Rai in 2G Scam case
New Delhi : Former Telecom Minister A. Raja, acquitted in the so-called 2G scam case, contends that the sanctity of the Comptroller and Auditor General's (CAG) office was "severely compromised" by Vinod Rai who clearly had "ulterior motives" in over-reaching the bounds of his constitutional function while auditing accounts relating to the 2G spectrum allocation in 2010.
"He (Rai) had to foist his personal (or influenced) agenda by sensationalising information and creating the appearance of procedural lapses and financial misappropriation. His presumptive loss figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crore has been subsequently debunked, but it became engraved in public memory and led to my tribulations," says Raja in his book "2G Saga Unfolds" (Har-Anand Publications).
The book, completed much before the judgment of the CBI court in December and set for release on Saturday, details the decisions Raja took on spectrum allocation and how he had followed rules and kept everybody, including then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in the loop.
He says he was pained when a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court cancelled the 122 2G licences granted by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2007 on the basis of false narratives and media sensationalism.
He also has a grouse over the "silence" of Manmohan Singh and then cabinet colleague P. Chidambaram in defending his "wholly justified" actions when institutions like the Central Vigilance Comission (CVC), the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) and the Supreme Court were "refusing" to hear his defence.
"I never asked for any clemency from the courts in the criminal case that was filed against me, but I am disturbed by the manner of implementation of the rule of law," he says in the preface to the 222-page book, completed on May 10, 2017.
He said he tried to establish, right from the issuance of 2G licences, that arrows of suspicion and false propaganda were fired at him with statutory and constitutional bodies concerned "setting off from a position of misinformation and remaining steeped in incomprehension".
"...CAG Vinod Rai, while appearing well-intentioned, has executed the functions of his office with ulterior motives and lack of objectivity."
The former minister, who had to quit the UPA II following the CAG report, refers to Rai's book "Nation's Conscience Keeper", in which he wrote a few chapters on 2G allocation, and says as the government auditor, he was the "sutradar who created the devious apparition which the media and political opposition followed".
"It is unfortunate that even the highest court of the country became a prey to this."
In fact, he says that during the trial, he wanted to call Rai as witness but the CBI took the stand that it didn't take the CAG report as the basis of its investigation.
"Whatever it is, they cannot cover up the fact that the CBI chargesheet contains only the 'irregularities' pointed by the CAG in its report. Clearly, Rai, whose statements would not have stood the test of cross examination in the court, was being protected by the CBI from being called as a witness."
In the chapter on his resignation, he writes that the government's intention became quite clear when the 2G case was divided into two parts -- "making one as their shield and the other as a sword -- for the CBI to wield against me".
Raja writes about how he was in favour of a JPC to probe the allegations but Chidambaram was opposed to this.
"Chidambaram's stand on 2G case is still a puzzle to me. He is an administrator of strong acumen, an able lawyer and a seasoned politician, yet I was surprised to see him shying away from discussing the 2G situation with me and even avoided speaking to me when we happened to pass each other at an airport.
"The only grouse that I have is that he did not support the idea of JPC and as a result the Supreme Court bench had -- what I can best describe as -- an emotional outburst against me and the government. He need not have done anything to protect or support me but he could certainly have helped a good government from being subjected to ignominy and its image being tarnished."
Raja says he heard from his cabinet colleagues from the Congress that Chidambaram was of the view that there might be a "big scam" and hence his arrest was temporarily essential to steer the wrath of the Supreme Court and to avoid criticism against the Prime Minister.
"This is hearsay and is possibly untrue gossip. However, Chidambaram's silence and his avoiding me put me on caution about what might be coming down the road. I sensed that a decision to put me behind the bars had been taken to salvage the government's image. I was preparing myself both mentally and physically for jail life -- I became vegetarian and started exercising twice daily."
In the last chapter on closing arguments, Raja says that it was his contention that the "sanctity of the CAG was severely compromised by its then head Vinod Rai.
"Vinod Rai clearly had ulterior motives in over-reaching the bounds of his constitutional function.
"It is my conviction consequent to the whole experience of the trial that there was political motivation to kill UPA II and Rai's was the shoulder on which the gun was placed. It is indeed sad that in spite of having so many intelligence agencies and eminent legal minds at its disposal, the UPA II government couldn't sense this and only tried to use me as a shield but were still unable to escape the bullet.
"The UPA government's and even more so Manmohan Singh's palpable silence in relation to defending my wholly justified actions, especially when the governing bodies (CVC, CBI, JPC and the Supreme Court) were refusing to hear my defence, felt like silencing of our nation's collective conscience.
"My sense of victimisation was compounded by the fact that for the first time in history an individual (Raja) was thus hounded by various institutions (constitutional bodies) with the full force of their bureaucratic machinery," Raja writes.
(Sarwar Kashani can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)