How 2G scam verdict will impact 2019 general elections
The rumblings of the judgment will be heard not only in the upcoming assembly elections but also in the 2019 general elections.
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The trial court's verdict today (December 21) in the 2G scam, which acquitted former telecom minister A Raja and M Kanimozhi of the DMK along with 17 others of all charges, has come at a time when the results of Assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh have just been announced and the poll schedule for Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Tripura and Meghalaya is yet to be announced.
The BJP must be grinning from ear to ear and the Congress regretting the timing of the verdict. The Gujarat results could have been very different had the court verdict come just a week before Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state went into the second round of polling. The main plank of the blistering election campaign of Modi and BJP president Amit Shah was Congress-bashing largely over the latter's alleged involvement in corruption. The issue of development went missing from the duo's election speeches.
As usual, the BJP set the poll agenda by carpet-bombing the Congress with all kinds of allegations pushing the latter on the defensive.
But the court verdict in the 2G case is nothing short of a political debacle for the BJP and a political windfall for Rahul Gandhi, who has just taken over as president of the grand old party. The BJP will now have to invent new issues to attack the Congress in the poll-bound states. The impact of the court verdict will be seen in the upcoming elections, particularly in the BJP-ruled states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh where the BJP and the Congress are locked in a direct contest.
BJP performs below par whenever it faces a direct fight with the Congress as demonstrated by the Gujarat polls results and the trend may well be exacerbated further in the three Hindi-belt states mentioned above because of the 2G case verdict.
There is not much merit in BJP leader and finance minister Arun Jaitley's argument that Congress is taking the 2G verdict as a "badge of honour" because the BJP too would have done the same in a similar situation. Moreover, the common refrain from several BJP leaders and spokespersons that just because the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) couldn't prove it doesn't mean that the "scam" didn't exist sounds hollow. Can't the same be argued by the Congress in Modi's alleged role in Godhra episode and Amit Shah's alleged role in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh's murder where the prosecution failed to prove the charges?
Elections are won or lost on public perceptions, but courts of law don't pronounce verdicts on the basis of perceptions. Courts rely only on hard evidence, nothing else.
Sample the operative portions of the judgment pronounced by special judge of the CBI court OP Saini:
1) There is no evidence on the record produced before the court indicating any criminality in the acts allegedly committed by the accused persons relating to fixation of cut-off date, manipulation of first-come-first-served policy, allocation of spectrum to dual technology applicants, ignoring ineligibility of STPL (Swan Telecom Pvt Ltd) and Unitech Group companies, non-revision of entry fee and transfer of Rs 200 crore to Kalaignar TV (P) Limited as illegal gratification.
2) The chargesheet of the instant case is based mainly on misreading, selective reading, non-reading and out of context reading of the official record. Further, it is based on some oral statements made by the witnesses during investigation, which the witnesses have not owned up to in the witness box. Lastly, if statements were made orally by the witnesses, the same were contrary to the official record and thus, not acceptable in law.
3) In view of the above detailed discussion, prosecution has not been successful in proving any of the ingredients either of the offence of conspiracy to cheat DoT (Department of Telecommunications) or of the substantive offence of cheating. Accordingly, I have absolutely no hesitation in holding that prosecution has miserably failed to prove any charge against any of the accused. Consequently, all accused are entitled to be acquitted and are accordingly acquitted.
The Modi government will inevitably appeal against the verdict in the high court but the higher courts too would take into account the same evidence the prosecution has submitted. For now, the BJP has suffered a big jolt in its tirade against the Congress and the pursuit of a Congress-mukt India.
The Congress will surely use the 2G case verdict to reverse the political tide that has been against it for years. And make no mistake about it. The rumblings of this verdict will be heard not only in the upcoming Assembly elections but also in the 2019 general elections.