The key question being asked in political circles is who was repsonsible for the crucial 23 words on Page 10 of the 11-page March 25, 2011, backgrounder on the 2G scam? The note has plunged Union home minister P. Chidambaram and the Congress into a political crisis. The words in question observe that, had the finance ministry, then under Chidambaram, stuck to its stand of auctioning the 2G spectrum, A. Raja, a former telecom minister who is now in jail, would not have been able to get away with the scam, involving an exchequer loss of Rs 1.72 lakh crore.
So was it with the present finance minister Pranab Mukherjee’s tacit approval that this input was incorporated? A section of Congressmen suspect it was. Their reasoning: a note on 2G allocation, a scam which was creating such a great furore, would have been carefully vetted by a shrewd politician and minister like Pranab. More so since Raja had been arrested by the CBI on February 2. But all this is a surmise arrived at by party leaders and political observers.
However, what is clearly known is that the backgrounder was generated on the instructions of the PMO. And the law, finance and telecom ministries were involved in the exercise. There were 20 meetings and several e-mails exchanged by those involved in putting together the draft note. But the final touches were given by the finance ministry. And the note was put up to the PMO by Dr P.G.S. Rao, deputy director, infrastructure and investment division, department of economic affairs. Crucially, Rao, in his covering note, states that the backgrounder “has been seen by the finance minister” (Pranab). The finance minister, in his September 29 press statement, said the “inference drawn in the note” that started it all was not his. Then whose was it?
But there is yet another twist. RTI activist and advocate Vivek Garg, who petitioned for the note, says the PMO was very coperative. Says he: “I got more information than I sought. I could not have got so many papers if the PMO did not want to provide them.” So is there a story there too?