Yeh lo ji, 2G

FIVE years ago, the 2G scam was the centrepiece of the Modi-led BJP’s relentless campaign against the Congress – a campaign that received initial propulsion courtesy the combination of Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal. Those guilty will be behind bars within six months of our coming to power, Modi promised then.

In the intervening period, the story line has morphed; contemporary mythology says that it was the efforts of Modi and the BJP that put the culprits in the dock. The story ignores the fact that the charges were first framed, and some of the main actors arrested, way back in 2011, three years before the BJP even came to power – just another example of how perception always trumps facts. (This timeline might help to refresh fading memories).

But never mind that, focus instead on the campaign promise of bringing the culprits to book. On December 21, 2017, Judge OP Saini of the CBI Special Court acquitted all accused and, inter alia, said:

I have absolutely no hesitation in holding that the prosecution has miserably failed to prove any charge against any of the accused, made in its well-choreographed charge sheet.

On LiveLaw, find the full judgment, and an explainer for how the judge ruled on the various charges, and reached the conclusions set out in his judgment.

The CBI appealed, and then dragged its feet until, in March 2018, a miffed Supreme Court directed the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate to complete the probe within six months.

The (Supreme Court) bench observed that the investigation had been going on for a long time, and (the) people of this country cannot be kept in the dark on a sensitive matter like this.

Six months, the Supreme Court said — twelve months ago. In October, the Delhi High Court said it would hear the CBI’s appeal against the acquittals on a daily basis. Since then, all that has emerged is some guff about the number of trees to be planted as punishment for being late with a response.

There is no sign of closure; the people of the country remain in the dark. And the real tragedy here is this: there is little doubt that there were procedural irregularities. What is in dispute is the nature of these irregularities and the damage they caused. By blowing it up into something it wasn’t, the investigative machinery and the politicians have effectively ensured that we will likely never get to the bottom of what it really is.  (In this connection, an excerpt from Vinod Rai’s book is worth your time).

Significantly, where the BJP’s diatribes about Congress corruption used to be about specifics – 2G, CWG, Aadhar – the party and its leader have now steered clear of itemizing and speak in general terms about “corruption”, hoping the muck of 2014 will resurface in the voter’s mind.

Meanwhile, there is this: UPA-II earned Rs 1,31,712 crore through the sale of mobile spectrum. Against that, NDA-II has earned Rs 64,811 crore – that is, less than half.

These are government figures, accessed by one Renjith Thomas through an RTI application.

Let that sink in. Also note that in 2017 and 2018 the government held no auctions at all – and ask yourself why.