May 14, 2011

More bad news in store for Kanimozhi

 NEW DELHI: For DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi, the bitter setback suffered on Friday by her party in Tamil Nadu may not be the worst news of this weekend.

The special CBI court hearing the 2G scam case is set to deliver its judgment on Kanimozhi's bail plea on Saturday, and could well send her to judicial custody in Tihar jail. Her imprisonment appears a strong possibility, given that judge O P Saini has sent her co-accused to judicial custody.

Sources in CBI, which has strongly argued for rejection of Kanimozhi's bail plea, feel that judge Saini may conform to the pattern.

The hearing on Saturday will take place amid indications of a new recognition in Congress about the spectrum scam's political fallout. Appearing on a TV channel, home minister P Chidambaram admitted that the 2G scam had hurt Congress. "We need to put it behind us," the home minister said.

He also indicated that some strong measures could be on the cards. "There are some thoughts on the matter," the minister said while stressing that he could not disclose them.

The recognition appears to have been promoted by Congress's decimation in Tamil Nadu where the party could manage a meagre five seats. The paltry tally showed that party's attempt to distance itself from the scam by pointing to the arrest of sacked telecom minister A Raja had not been a success. Hence the realization, as articulated by Chidambaram, of the need to do more.

The party's shock loss in the adjoining UT Puducherry and, of course, to a lesser degree, the poor performance in Kerala also suggests that the political damage from the scam may not remain limited to TN alone. With crucial elections -- Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab -- scheduled next year and with the issue of corruption still on the national frontburner, party leadership may be considering sterner measures. This should eliminate any hope in the DMK camp of Centre trying to guide investigations away from Karunanidhi's doorstep.

Kanimozhi was named an accused in the supplementary chargesheet filed by CBI on April 25. The agency

had also named Kalaignar TV MD Sharad Kumar, Karim Morani of Cineyug Films and Rajiv Agarwal and Asif Balwa of DB Group. The agency said DB Group, which owns Swan Telecom that benefitted from the 2G spectrum scam, had given Rs 200 crore to DMK controlled Kalaignar TV, in which Kanimozhi holds 20%, as kickback.

The CBI judge summoned Kanimozhi and others named in the supplementary chargesheet on May 6. Ram Jethmalani put up a spirited defence of Kanimozhi, distancing herself from the entire 2G conspiracy. The lawyer had contended that Kanimozhi was a mere minority owner of Kalaignar TV, and had no role in its business activities.

CBI vigorously opposed her bail plea saying she was very much part of the 2G conspiracy and was the brain behind Kalaignar TV, in which Karunanidhi's wife Dayalu Ammal has 60% stake. The investigation agency said Kanimozhi was "very close" to former telecom minister A Raja and that she had actively lobbied for Raja's appointment as telecom minister in UPA-2 in 2009. The CBI has charged her under various sections of Prevention of Corruption Act.

Most of the other accused in the 2G scam — Raja, former telecom secretary Siddarth Behura, Raja's former personal secretary R K Chandolia, DB Group partners Shahid Balwa and Vinod Goenka, Unitech managing director Sanjay Chandra, three Reliance group executives Gautam Doshi, Hari Nair and Surendra Pipara, DB Group's Asif Balwa and Rajiv Agarwal -- are all in judicial custody

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