A Raja, the former telecom minister accused of short-changing the nation by Rs17.6 lacs and Ashok Chavan, former Maharashtra chief minister accused of facilitating his relatives’ getting flats meant for war widows, can both take comfort in the fact that in India, there has historically been a big difference between being an accused and being imprisoned. Raja has been arrested only for interrogation, and there is reason to be sceptical.
The Congress party is probably using this as a bargaining chip for seat-sharing negotiations with alliance partner DMK ahead of the Tamil Nadu polls in April-May; and Raja remembers former Sanchar Bhawan occupant Sukh Ram, whose conviction took 17 years and who has still avoided jail time. Chavan need only recall other CMs named in major scams-Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mayawati, Jayalalithaa and Arjun Singh -and ask: What, me worry?
The CBI’s newfound diligence may give the ruling UPA relief at a time when even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s image has been tainted. It might even answer the open letter on “governance deficit” recently signed by top industrialists. Yet one cannot help but worry that at the end of the tortuous legal process, both Raja and Chavan may have the last laugh. There is a need to guard against this outcome. The CBI’s work has actually only just begun.
It needs to ensure that its case leaves the court no choice but to hold each high official guilty and punish them. There have been infuriating delays but thanks to the Supreme Court, the CBI has stuck to its task. Seeing it through will be a step towards restoring in some measure people’s faith in governance.