More on dirty spectrum

Hardnews Bureau

Manmohan Singh's robust denial in Parliament of BJP leader Arun Jaitley's claim that the finance ministry was uncomfortable with the 2G pricing and allocation, has taken everyone by surprise. The PM said an impression was being created that the decision was taken "against the explicit dissent of the then finance minister... the record clearly shows that the then finance minister, while he initially had a different view, which he communicated to me on January 15, subsequently consulted with the minister, telecommunications, and the two ministers worked out an agreed formula on spectrum charges, which was reported to me in a meeting on July 4, 2008." 

This is the first time the PM has chosen to show that the decision regarding the first-come-first-served policy plus spectrum pricing was actually a collective responsibility of the cabinet, and all the key ministers, including the present Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, as the GoM head, were on board on this issue. 

This forceful defence scotches attempts of individual ministers to distance themselves from the 2G decision and thereby protect themselves from the threat of interrogation/cross-examination by either CBI or the JPC. It has also highlighted the circumstances in which the deal was cleared, despite trenchant opposition by the PM himself and, later, the law and finance ministries. Apparently, pressure was brought on the government by some powerful entity, which melted all opposition both to the acceptance of a first-come-first-served policy instead of a policy of auction, and later, to that of the 2001 pricing policy. No matter what the PM may say about the policy itself being fine, though its implementation was flawed, these are nonetheless two key issues that contributed to the gargantuan scam. 

Supreme Court had come close to following this lead, but chose instead to give freedom to the CBI to follow many of its leads. As of now, CBI has zeroed in on A Raja, besides the former telecom secretary and all the businessmen and brokers who were beneficiaries of the telecom policy. 

CBI has also nailed people close to DMK leader M Karunanidhi's wife and daughter. It claims to have unravelled the money trail involving the Anil Ambani-controlled ADAG and a beneficiary of the 2G sale, Swan Telecom, and then established investments made by Swan in companies controlled by people close to the DMK leadership. The probe seems to be cutting close to the bone, raising major doubts about the longevity of Congress's relationship with DMK in Tamil Nadu, as well as whether the two parties would have an alliance in the forthcoming assembly elections. Removal of DMK ministers from GoMs and infrastructure committees is indicative of what is happening to this marriage. 

PM and CAG have given ample leads to the JPC to follow. One wonders what the fallout of this probe is going to be for the government, and some key players.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: MARCH 2011