Will politics over 2G scam case have an impact during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls?
New Delhi, Dec 22: Back in 2012, the then opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) unofficially started its campaign for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections by raising the issue of massive corruption under the Manmohan Singh government.
A year before that, in 2011, under the leadership of social activist Anna Hazare the country witnessed the big anti-corruption movement which finally gave birth to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in November 2012.
Right from the Commonwealth Games scam, 2G spectrum scam to Coalgate scam, the second tenure of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government (2009-2014) at the Centre was mired in massive corruption scandals.
The BJP and then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi (who was the prime ministerial hopeful at that time) went to the people of India asking for the ouster of the Congress-led UPA government responsible for the loot and plunder of the country during the Lok Sabha elections of 2014.
Their clarion call was answered by the voters of India, as corruption was the main issue over which the BJP fought against the Congress in the last parliamentary elections and came out triumphant by winning 282 seats on its own and reducing the Congress to just 44 seats in the Lok Sabha.
The allegations of corruption against the Congress did not stop there as the "taint" of running a scam-ridden government by the grand old party continues to haunt it till now.
Even during the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections, the results of which were announced on Monday, the BJP asked the voters not to elect the Congress as the party is corrupt.
However, on Thursday when a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in the national capital acquitted all the accused in the 2G spectrum scam case, including former telecom minister A Raja and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) MP Kanimozhi, things took a complete U-turn.
Taking a "moral high ground" over the verdict, the Congress reiterated its earlier stand that there was no scam at all, and it was a propaganda run by the BJP to come to power at the Centre.
"We respect the court's judgement. I don't want to boast. I am glad that the court has announced unambiguously that the massive propaganda launched against the UPA was without any foundation. The judgement speaks for itself," said former PM Singh.
Immediately after the Thursday's verdict on 2G scam case was out, a political slugfest started between the BJP and the Congress. Leaders from both the parties started airing their views on the matter.
The stunning verdict came as an anti-climax in a case that had been repeatedly highlighted by the BJP during the 2014 general election campaign as the hallmark of corruption in the then UPA regime. The BJP turned the arbitrary award of radio frequency to telecom providers into a major political issue and put the UPA-II government on the mat.
"I have absolutely no hesitation in holding that prosecution has miserably failed to prove any of the charges against any of the accused," Special CBI Judge OP Saini said in his verdicts in three separate cases related to the 2G scam in a packed courtroom at the Patiala House premises.
Dealing a body blow to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India's and CBI's estimation of huge loss in grant of 2G licences, judge Saini in his 1,552- page verdict in the main CBI case held that some people "artfully" arranged few selected facts and created a scam "when there was none". In all, there were 17 accused, including Raja and Kanimozhi, both leaders of the Congress ally DMK, in this case that also included three corporate entities.
Buoyed by the verdicts, the Congress and the DMK said "truth" has finally prevailed and that justice has been delivered while the ruling party asked the Congress not to treat them as a "badge of honour".
The Congress demanded that PM Modi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and other BJP leaders apologise to the nation for their alleged "propaganda and lies" on the issue.
"Will all those people, including Modi, Jaitley and other BJP leaders, who for years made false propaganda and lies their stepping stone to come to power, apologise to the country?" asked Congress communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala. "Today is the day for fixing accountability and responsibility."
In a counterattack, Jaitley said the Congress should not treat the 2G verdict as a "badge of honour." The party's "zero loss theory" was proved wrong when the apex court squashed spectrum allocation in 2012, he added.
"There is no evidence against me and justice has been delivered," Kanimozhi, daughter of DMK supremo M Karunanidhi, told reporters. A beaming Raja said, "You see everybody is happy."
In a statement in the evening, Raja said the court acquittal showed that the presumptive loss in allocation of 2G spectrum was "cooked-up". He also debunked the presumptive loss theories in the allocation.
Raja, who was the Telecom minister in the Congress-led UPA government when 122 spectrum licences were issued to 8 companies in 2008 on first-come-first-serve basis, said his actions were for the benefit of masses.
Raja remained in jail for over 15 months while Kanimozhi was in prison for six months before they were granted bail. Other accused persons were also in jail for varying terms.
The trial in the three cases relating to the 2G scam began after the then CAG Vinod Rai in his report alleged 122 2G licences were given to telecom operators at throwaway prices when the UPA was in power and pegged at Rs 1.76 lakh crore the loss to the national exchequer.
The CBI had alleged that there was a loss of Rs 30,984 crore to the exchequer in allocation of licences for the 2G spectrum which were scrapped by the Supreme Court court on February 2, 2012.
Former telecom minister Kapil Sibal demanded an apology from Rai, saying his stand on loss from the 2G spectrum allocation stands vindicated. Sibal had contradicted the CAG report, maintaining there was "zero loss" to the Government as a result of giving 2G licences to new players in 2008.
The verdict also echoed in the Lok Sabha where senior Congress leader M Veerappa Moily demanded that Rai quit all posts. Rai heads the Supreme Court-appointed four-member panel of administrators to run the affairs of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and is also the chairperson of the Banks Board Bureau (BBB).
The corruption cases that surfaced during the UPA-II regime are likely to have a direct implication in the upcoming eight state Assembly elections and the all-important 2019 parliamentary elections.
The Congress is planning to take the 2G issue to the people by highlighting the fact that the grand old party was wrongly punished by the voters over a scam which the judge said was never there.