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1 yr after arrest,Raja settles down in jail

It has been exactly one year since former telecom minister A Raja was arrested on February 2,2011 in connection with the 2G spectrum allocation case

Written by Pritha Chatterjee | New Delhi | Published: February 2, 2012 12:40:05 am

It has been exactly one year since former telecom minister A Raja was arrested on February 2,2011 in connection with the 2G spectrum allocation case. As he nears his first anniversary in Tihar jail,Raja,sources said,has appeared more calm since the initial days.

Described first as an “arrogant English-speaking” minister who was close to the prison guards from the Tamil Nadu battalion,jail officials today describe him as an affable inmate,who takes a keen interest in all activities. “He was among the first to take the new electronic smart cards,which replaced the food coupons. Raja bought the card,worth Rs 1,500,and started using it from the day it was launched,” a prison official said. The cards can be swiped in prison canteens to purchase special food items.

From his first morning in Tihar on February 20,2011,Raja has been buying coupons for omelettes,biscuits,and namkeen. After the first two weeks of “South Indian home food”,Raja has eaten jail meals,and gets tiffins only twice a week.

Raja has been arguing his own case with a distinct accent,often referring to his own career as a lawyer. He has used his past to explain telecom policy — he once used his old Java bike as an example to explain an efficient use of bandwidth over time. Once,talking to reporters outside the court,Raja recounted a humourous story: “After interrogation,the CBI officer told me they were arresting me. They had to prepare a medical report. My BP [systolic was 128; normal. The officer also wanted to check his BP — it was 216.”

The high-security ward 8 in jail No 1 with 14 single cells has been Raja’s address for the last year. His “friendship” with R K Sharma,acquitted in the Shivani Bhatnagar murder case this year,is famous. “They would play badminton and take morning walks together,and both took an interest in giving fellow inmates legal help,” the official added. Contrary to perception,Raja’s Hindi skills are not “as bad”.

After Sharma’s exit,former telecom minister Sukh Ram briefly occupied that cell. “They spoke briefly,if at all. Sukh Ram used to be very despondent,” a guard said. Shahid Balwa,co-accused in the 2G case,also occupied the same ward,but interactions with Raja were brief.

An avid reader,among several books he has read in prison,Raja enjoyed one that was lent by fellow DMK party member Kanimozhi’s husband Aravindan. The book,Sources in Indian tradition,by Ainslie T Embree,of Columbia University,provides accounts of traditions practised in different religions. Raja also reads at least four newspapers,and prepares notes on the developments in his court hearings.

After Kanimozhi’s bail,visits from the top-rung of DMK have dried up. “It is now only people from his Nilgiris constituency who drop in frequently,” a prison official said.

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