Interview with Prakash Karat, general secretary, CPI(M).
PRAKASH KARAT, general secretary of the CPI(M), spoke to Frontline on the latest controversy involving the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. Excerpts:
The CPI(M) had raised the spectrum allocation issue way back in 2008, but at that time no one, including the BJP, took it seriously.
Ever since the privatisation of the telecom sector began, there has been a series of corruption scandals. We raised such issues during the time of the BJP-led government and during the first UPA government's tenure. We took up the allegation of the 2G spectrum as early as February 2008. A number of letters were written to the Prime Minister and statements issued by the party regarding the big loss to the exchequer due to the actions of Minister A. Raja. But until the recent outcry after the Comptroller and Auditor General's report, nothing much was done.
Why does a JPC have more sanctity than the Public Accounts Committee (PAC)? Sections within the Congress opine that the CAG report has not incriminated anyone and that the individuals concerned have been removed from their posts.
After the CAG report confirmed that there was large-scale manipulation of the system, the Congress leadership had no other option but to ask Raja to resign. But that does not end the issue. What is required is to find out how such a massive scam could be perpetrated and how an entire system could be manipulated. That is why we have demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee that can go into all the ramifications. I do not know why the Congress party and the government refuse to constitute a JPC. During the period of the NDA government, when the Congress was in the opposition, it demanded JPCs for the Tehelka tapes and for other corruption scandals. The 2G telecom scam is much bigger than these earlier scams. It has caused the single largest loss to the exchequer.
The removal of the people who are responsible from their positions is the first step, whether it is the CWG corruption or the Adarsh Housing scam. In all such cases, what is required is prompt investigation, filing of cases and prosecution of those guilty. In the case of the 2G spectrum issue, the most important step would be to cancel the licences of the companies that illegally got the allocation.
Secondly, there should be an auction of the spectrum so that the government can recoup the losses. The committee set up to inquire into the CWG is useless as it is without any powers. What is needed is investigation, filing of cases and prosecution. The CBI and other investigating agencies like the Enforcement Directorate should conduct joint investigations.
The BJP, too, has in a sense lost the moral authority to attack the UPA on corruption. Is it possible to have a fair inquiry into the allegations against the Karnataka Chief Minister if he continues in office?
The Yeddyurappa government in Karnataka has set a new brazen record in corruption. First of all, the government was conceived with the mining mafia being part of it. This has made the government a centre for all illegal and corrupt activities. The Chief Minister himself is facing serious charges of bestowing favours to his sons and relatives in land allocation. It is shocking that the BJP leadership has refused to act in the face of growing evidence of wrongdoing. Their decision to keep the Chief Minister on has exposed the hypocrisy and double standards of the BJP.
Are all these corruption scandals an outcome of a kind of policy that has been pursued since the 1990s and that the face of corruption has changed somewhat in this period?
After liberalisation, what has developed is a nexus between big business, politicians and the bureaucrats. Under the neoliberal regime, corporates and multinational companies are able to suborn policymaking. If one side of the 2G spectrum is Raja, on the other side are corporates who try to get favours. In the recent case of officials of banks taking bribes for giving loans to the real estate sector, corporates are involved in the bribing. But the government refuses to acknowledge the nexus that has developed. Even some of the regulators are in connivance.
This is not just because politicians need money to fight elections. The loot of public funds is a form of accumulation of capital in the country. Without fighting against this system and policies, corruption cannot be curbed or eliminated.