First steps

The arrest of Suresh Kalmadi, Congress MP and former chief of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, and charge sheeting of Kanimozhi, DMK MP and daughter of DMK chief Karunanidhi, by the CBI is heartening. It raises a flicker of hope in the people that the long arm of the law will eventually catch up with at least some of the corrupt, however powerful and politically well-connected they might be. Kalmadi has been arrested for conspiring in awarding the timing, scoring and result contract for the Games to a Swiss company at an inflated price. He is being investigated for several other Games-related scams too. His questionable role in awarding contracts was obvious several months ahead of the Games. However, the government refused to act against him, preferring to wait till the event was over. Much time was allowed to lapse before the probe or the first of the arrests came, raising concern over the possible destruction of evidence. Over the last few months, several of Kalmadi’s aides were arrested. His arrest now, though long overdue, is welcome. However, this is only the beginning. There are others who were in the loop on the awarding of contracts. Under pressure now, Kalmadi can be expected to spill the beans. The CBI must bring to book the others too.

The charge sheeting of Kanimozhi and four others for criminal conspiracy and receiving kickbacks in the 2G spectrum case is a huge embarrassment for the DMK and the Congress, as well. Whether the CBI will arrest Kanimozhi as others who were earlier charge sheeted in the 2G case will be keenly watched. Although the CBI’s action against Kanimozhi is likely to sour Congress-DMK relations, whether it will result in rupture will depend on the outcome of the Assembly elections.

Scarred and stained by multiple scams involving its MPs and ministers, the UPA government will be hoping that the CBI’s action against Kalmadi and Kanimozhi, though embarrassing, will help it redeem its image and send out a strong signal that it is not soft on corruption. The CBI’s belated actions are insufficient. By themselves they will not shore up the UPA’s tattered credentials. However, if these first steps are taken to their logical conclusion and all those involved in the scams are punished, the UPA stands a fair chance of convincing the public that it does not indeed tolerate corruption.

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