PM silent on Raja, says pact with DMK on ‘as of now’

By Arvind Padmanabhan, IANS,

On Board Air India One: Declining to be drawn into the alleged spectrum scam involving Communications Minister A. Raja as the matter was in court, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday said the Congress party’s alliance “as of now” continued with Raja’s DMK.

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He also declined any knowledge of a proposal from AIADMK chief J. Jayalalithaa offering support should the Congress choose to part ties with her DMK rival, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi.

“Parliament is in session. It is not proper for me to comment on a subject which is also probably in the court,” the prime told journalists while returning from a three-day visit to South Korea since Wednesday for the G-20 Summit.

Asked for his reaction to an offer of support from Jayalalithaa to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), that now has the DMK as a constituent, Manmohan Singh said: “This is a subject which I am hearing for the first time.”

He said it was for the Congress high command, led by party president Sonia Gandhi, also the chairperson of the UPA, to decide on Jayalalithaa’s offer.

“I don’t know what Dr. Jayalalithaa has said. We are in alliance with the DMK and that alliance stands as of now.”

Opposition parties have been mounting pressure on the government to act against Raja over his alleged role in the allotment of 2G spectrum in 2008, which it claims is a Rs.1.76 trillion ($40 billion) scandal.

Parliament was adjourned on successive days earlier this week after opposition members continued to press for Raja’s ouster, which led to the disruption of business in both the two houses Wednesday-Thursday.

The opposition has toughened its position, demanding Raja’s resignation after a report from the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), which is believed to have indicted Raja, was submitted to the government.

The spectrum, or radio waves, was sold to private telecom service firms in 2008 and the opposition says the price which the exchequer got was a fraction of what was legitimate on account of the alleged scam.

(Arvind Padmanabhan can be reached at [email protected])