PM distances himself from 2G fiasco

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on February 16, 2011


The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, on Wednesday sought to distance himself from the controversy over allocating 2G mobile licences in 2008 to new player by saying that he was not aware of the methodology for first-come-first-served policy adopted by the then Telecom Minister Mr A. Raja.

The Prime Minister said that Mr Raja had assured him that he will follow a transparent and fair policy in allocating 2G spectrum.

“Who got the licences and how FCFS was implemented, was never discussed with me nor was it brought to the Cabinet. This was exclusively the Telecom Minister's decision,” Dr Singh said while responding to queries from Editors of TV news channels.

“I wrote a letter to Mr Raja on November 2, 2007. I listed a number of issues that he must look into and ensure they are dealt with in an equitable, fair and transparent manner. Mr Raja wrote back saying he was absolutely transparent in dealings.” Dr Singh said.

When asked to why he did not act despite complaints against Mr Raja, the Prime Minister said, “I was not in a position to make up my mind if anything was seriously wrong.”

On the issue of why Mr Raja was re-appointed as Telecom Minister in 2009, Dr Singh said that it was the DMK party's decision to send Mr Raja to the Cabinet. “At that moment there was no reason to feel that anything wrong had been done,” he said.

On why the Government did not realise the mistake when some of the operators who got the licence in 2008 started selling equity stake for a premium Dr Singh said, “I don't know what was the motivation of the people who got the spectrum. Now if they have to roll-out (services), they require money and that money can be raised by the way of borrowing or by diluting equity,” he said.

“Therefore at that stage I did not think I should interfere.”

Dr Singh, however, admitted that the decision not to auction 2G spectrum was taken based on the recommendations of the TRAI, Telecom Commission and the Finance Ministry. On whether the decision led to losses to the exchequer he said that the CAG itself said that it is a presumptive loss.

“The then existing policy of the Government was that auctions should not take place and if auctions have not taken place then what is the basis to calculate the loss?,” the Prime Minister said. He added that the Opposition parties were to be blamed for stalling Parliament proceedings and he was willing to face a Joint Parliamentary Committee if required.

The Opposition parties said that the Government was attempting a cover up of the scam. The BJP said that PM's remarks that the Finance Ministry had supported the decision on not auctioning 2G spectrum “showed that everybody was involved.”

CPI-M politburo member Mr Sitaram Yechuri said the Prime Minister's statements were confusing.

“On one hand he says that he is ready to appear before any committee in connection with the major scams like 2G, but on the other his party has been opposing the demands for a JPC probe. Now why at this juncture the Government is giving signals that it is ready to accept the opposition's long pressed demand,” he said

> tkt@thehindu.co.in

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Published on February 16, 2011
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