Whatever the gloss apologists of the UPA government might seek to put on it, the truth is that the continuance of Law Minister Ashwani Kumar has become untenable after the affidavit filed by the CBI in the Coalgate scam. He must go. The law minister, who happens to be a lawyer himself, ought to have been doubly conscious about the need to respect the order of the Apex Court. The Supreme Court had publicly and most unambiguously directed CBI Director Ranjit Sinha, to file a status report on the progress made in the investigations into the coal scam, without in anyway involving the political executive. In other words, the law minister, or, for that matter, anyone else in the government, was clearly told not to interfere in the investigations in the coal scam. But that is exactly what Law Minister Ashwani Kumar did. He summoned the CBI Director and senior law officers of the government to pore over the draft of a report that the investigating agency proposed to file in the Apex Court. Along with Sinha, a couple of other senior CBI officials were present at the meeting, which took place in the law minister’s office. Following a report about such a meeting in a Delhi newspaper, the government was forced on the backfoot. Despite demands by the opposition, it neither confirmed nor denied such a meeting. Further, there were reports that senior officials in the Prime Minister’s Office too held a meeting with the CBI officials again, with the same objective of vetting the report the agency intended to file in the Supreme Court. The interest of the PMO was easily explained. After all, the allotment of coal blocks to hundreds of parties without any objective criterion, or even the mandatory due diligence, took place when Manmohan Singh himself headed the coal ministry. The government had denied any wrongdoing in the allocation of coal blocks. However, in an affidavit in the Apex Court, the CBI had admitted that due diligence was not done while awarding lucrative coal mining rights to all manner of applicants, some with close connections to the ruling coterie. Apprehending trouble in case the CBI filed an affidavit revealing the truth, Kumar convened the meeting to sanitise the proposed report the agency was to file in the court. His objective was to shield the prime minister and others in the government against any embarrassing disclosures by the CBI. However, since his interference had become public, the CBI Director, in his affidavit in the Apex Court on Friday, could not but admit that the law minister did convene a meeting to discuss the status report. That admission has made Kumar defenceless. He has to go. And go he will. The opposition has smelled blood, especially after the unavoidable admission by the CBI director in his two-page status report in the Apex Court on Friday. Late in the evening, the government was still pretending as if nothing had happened and everything was hunky-dory, but behind that veneer of faux confidence, lurked a serious crisis. For, if Kumar is still a member of the government when the Parliament meets on Monday morning, it will witness mayhem and worse and would be unable to conduct any business.
A government which defies the highest court in the land, a government which misuses its majority in a parliamentary committee to suppress the truth in the 2G scam, a government which produces a new scam every other week, well…such a government has forfeited its right to continue in office. It is a pity that even when found with its hand in the till, the government continues to brazenly insist on its innocence. However, the crisis in Parliament resulting from the impudence of the law minister cannot be defused, unless he is given the order of the boot. In any case, Kumar is expendable. He counts for zilch in the Congress Party. He had earlier mishandled the able and erudite Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman, who, instead of suffering the overbearing attitude of the law minister, had deemed it fit to resign. Now, he has landed the government in avoidable trouble, by brazenly seeking to tinker with the CBI status report to the Apex Court. He might seek to gain the sympathy of the prime minister by pleading that his only concern was to ensure that the CBI did not blame him, but even the PM will find it hard to retain him. No tears will be shed when Kumar is sacked. At least, that will allow the government to turn its attention to a bigger crisis perpetrated by another overzealous Congressman, P C Chacko, who made the 2G JPC virtually into an extension of the ruling party. Institutions under this government have taken a severe beating. It is for the people to salvage the situation from a brazen and corrupt government.