Congress, DMK negotiate cost of 2G clean-up

Unequal equation Karunanidhi with Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Kamal Nath earlier this year
Unequal equation Karunanidhi with Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Kamal Nath earlier this year

ON THE morning of 15 December, DMK patriarch Muthuvel Karunanidhi woke up to some really bad news. As part of the Centre’s crackdown on the 2G spectrum scam, the CBI had raided the houses of his daughter Kanimozhi and former telecom minister A Raja in Chennai. He immediately called his troubleshooters and the prime minister’s office in New Delhi, only to find that all assurances given by the Congress leadership, before and after Raja’s unceremonious exit from the Union cabinet, had come to naught. That the CBI would conduct searches was always on the cards, but their intensity was unexpected.

Intelligence sources say the raids have a clear political pattern — they centre on Raja so that the Congress can exploit the rift within the DMK first family.

Does this mean that the DMK patriarch has given up on Raja and Kanimozhi? Or is it a sign of the political tide turning against him? His efforts to reach the prime minister and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi were thwarted. He was told they were busy with preparations for the All India Congress Committee (AICC) plenary session to begin on 18 December at Burari.

Only Defence Minister AK Antony attended his call in New Delhi to do the needful — assure Karunanidhi that the CBI needed to do what it was doing. That it was important for the Centre to act to dispel the pressure from the Opposition, and there was no reason for the DMK supremo to feel alarmed.

The Opposition parties have all called the raids too little too late. Political circles are speculating about a mid-term election, and about the DMK walking out of UPA 2 with its 18 MPs. Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari dismissed all talks of discord within the UPA: “There is no pressure on the alliance. Raids and searches are a normal part of an investigation.”

Another UPA ally, the Trinamool Congress, had backed the demand for a JPC probe. But its chief whip in Parliament, Sudip Bandyopadhyay, made it clear that the party “was firmly behind the prime minister” in however he chooses to punish the corrupt in the 2G scam.

Congress sources say they regard the AIADMK as an even more unreliable ally than the DMK

There were unconfirmed reports of other parties offering to prop up the government in case the DMK walks out. AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa has already offered to support the Congress in case of a DMK walkout. But Congress sources say they regard Amma as an even more unreliable ally than the DMK. Will the Congress then play footsie with Mulayam Singh Yadav to get his support? That will have to be at the cost of its hopes of a resurgence in Uttar Pradesh, which assumes more importance now, after the party’s rout in Bihar.

The AICC plenary resolutions will now be read with even more interest for signs of the party’s plans. The Congress finds itself on a sticky wicket on several fronts; with the Srikrishna Committee report expected in Andhra Pradesh, the rebels there will get more traction with the Telangana issue. And the government is not even sure how many copies of the Niira Radia phone tapes are out there, or who has them.

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