PM forces Raja to resign

Ministers quitting expected to quell Opposition clamour in Parliament

PM forces Raja to resign

Hours before quitting, Raja had told reporters that “there was no question of my resigning”. But by 11 pm, the minister met Singh at his residence and submitted his resignation. The decision came after Raja returned from his second trip to Chennai in two days for parleys with DMK chief M Karunanidhi.

Raja told reporters after meeting Singh that he had resigned as per the advice of Karunanidhi. “I resigned to avoid embarrassment to the government in Parliament. This (the quitting) is not an admission of guilt. I will prove I am innocent. I have not done anything wrong. I revolutionised the telecom sector and I am proud of it,” he said.

The DMK leader’s resignation is expected to quell the high-pitch showdown that was expected on Monday in Parliament between the BJP-led Opposition and the Congress. It is also face-saver for Singh, who has just returned from a trip abroad and was slated to make a statement in the House on the issue. Parliament was stalled for three days last week over the controversy.

Prior to Raja’s quitting on Sunday, there was heightened political activity both in Delhi and in Chennai.  Congress president Sonia Gandhi held a meeting of the party core committee with Singh, senior ministers Pranab Mukherjee and A K Antony, and her political secretary Ahmed Patel and decided that there was no alternative but to make Raja go.

The Congress leadership’s decision followed Opposition’s hints that they would on Monday confront the prime minister in Parliament on what action he intended to take against Raja and why the minister was being shielded. Accordingly, Mukherjee spoke to Karunanidhi to bail the UPA out by making Raja quit.

Tamil Nadu Law Minister Durai Murugan, who was given the job of lobbying with the Congress for Raja, had also by then flown back to Chennai with his feedback. Karunanidhi finally relented in the evening and asked Raja to quit.

The DMK now has the job of nominating one of its MPs to take over the ministries held by Raja, top Congress sources said. Among the names doing rounds are Karunanidhi’s daughter and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi, DMK spokesman T K S Elangovan and Dalit leader, A K S Vijayan. Vijayan’s name is in the fray, as the DMK is looking for a Dalit face to replace Raja in the Centre in the wake of the upcoming polls in TN.

Second resignation

This is the second major resignation within a week over the issue of corruption. The Congress leadership had secured the resignation of Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan on November 9 for his alleged role in Adarsh Housing Society scam.

Raja’s resignation came three days after AIADMK leader J Jayalalitha said she was prepared to support the UPA if Raja was removed. The Congress had declined the offer.
Meanwhile, the Opposition welcomed Raja’s resignation. Describing the spectrum scam as the “mother of all scams” and “a monumental fraud of 1.76 lakh crore”, BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said Raja must be prosecuted under Prevention of Corruption Act.

“A proper FIR should be lodged, CBI is already inquiring...All those involved in this big scam should be made accountable and liable. All should be prosecuted,” he said. 

Spectrum scam-line

Nov 9: Within an hour of US president Barack Obama leaving Delhi, Congress leadership asks Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan to resign for his role in Adarsh society scam.

Nov 9: Suresh Kalmadi, neck-deep in Commonwealth Games scam, was sacked from Congress Parliamentary Party secretary post; pressure builds up on Telecom Minister A Raja to quit for his role in the 2G spectrum scam.

Nov 9, 10 and 11: Parliament stalled by Opposition demanding removal of Raja; Congress, Prime Minister say alliance with DMK stands ‘as of now’; DMK rules out Raja resignation.

Nov 11: AIADMK supremo J Jayalalitha offers support of 18 MPs including nine of her party in case DMK pulls out of the UPA.

Nov 12 and 13: Efforts continue in the Congress to convince DMK president M Karunanidhi to ask Raja to quit.

Nov 14: Congress pressure on DMK mounts; Raja meets Karunanidhi in Chennai; Congress top leaders including PM, Sonia Gandhi, Pranab Mukherjee and A K Antony review developments, conclude Raja should go.

Nov 14, 11 pm: Raja meets PM, tenders resignation, saying it was to avoid embarrassment to government in Parliament.

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