Tuesday, Dec 06, 2022

Seven Questions

Seven Questions

A Prime Minister who maintained an “Arm’s Length Distance” was trying to plead ignorance on the ground that he did not know . If he was “Hands On” as he now claims to be, he has to answer these questions

Joint press statement issued by BJP's leaders of opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha

The Prime Minister’s statement daring to expose the skeletons in opposition’s cupboard has set a confrontationist tone for the Monsoon session of the Parliament. The rationale behind the Prime Minister’s statement cannot be understood. In the past few days the Cabinet Minister and the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs initiated a dialogue with the BJP leaders in the Parliament with the intention of ensuring the smooth conduct of business in the current Monsoon Session. Thereafter, the Finance Minister and senior Congress leader Shri Pranab Mukherjee reached out to the BJP in Parliament by meeting its senior leaders and discussing areas where the Opposition and the Government could function in a manner where the government business could be smoothly conducted and the Opposition is able to raise the issues of its concern in both Houses. We were of the opinion that for the first time in recent years the Government started on a positive note. But regrettably, an ill-advised comment by the Prime Minister has vitiated the environment for which the initiative had come from his party and government.

The possible rationale for this could be that the PM is being asked many questions, particularly in relation to his own role in the allocation of the 2G spectrum and he has very few answers to give. The Prime Minister has adopted a policy of not answering the questions raised but merely has chosen the diversionary tactics of attacking the Opposition instead.

The Prime Minister has changed his stand several times on the 2G scandal. From an initial support to his Minister Shri A. Raja, whom he defended as following a well-established policy, he then pleaded ignorance about telecom matters and informed the Parliament that he had trusted the judgment of his Ministers and when the telecom Minister Shri Raja and the then Finance Minister Shri P. Chidambaram came with an agreed proposal, he unsuspectingly accepted the same.

Yesterday, the PMO has sought to explain his Secretary’s noting on the file, which indicated that an indifferent Prime Minister had chosen to look the other way and wanted to maintain an “arms length distance” from what his Government was doing. The PMO now rejects the ‘arms length distance’ theory and instead wants to give the impression that the Prime Minister was ‘hands on’ when it came to the allotment of Spectrum.

Prior to the allotment of spectrum, Shri A Raja had kept the PM informed through at least 9 letters wherein he had brought to the notice of the PM that the allocation of spectrum was not by auction and that in 2008 spectrum was being allotted at 2001 prices. He had also informed the PM that he had changed the basis of “First cum First Serve” policy which would no longer depend on the date of application but from the date of compliance i.e the date of payment of entry fee. The PM has already agreed that the then Telecom Minister A Raja and the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram had in a meeting dated 4/7/2008 explained the lower entry fee rationale to him. Government has now admitted that when some of the Companies which were issued a license and spectrum , went for issuance of additional equity in favour of some foreign entities, the then Finance Minister was fully involved and the Prime Minister was informed that the sale of equity was as per the FDI policy.

These inconsistent positions adopted by the Prime Minister makes his position far worse. A Prime Minister who maintained an “Arm’s Length Distance” was trying to plead ignorance on the ground that he did not know . If he was “Hands On” as he now claims to be, he has to answer the following questions:

  1. When Dr. Dayanidhi Maran informed the Prime Minister that the entry fee would be decided by him and not by the GOM as a part of their arrangement, was it an alert that a ‘hands on’ PM meekly gave in to Maran’s request ?
  1. Why did the PM not insist that the advice of the Law Ministry be followed and the GOM should decide the pricing of the spectrum.?
  2. Did it not strike the Hands on Prime Minister that after insisting on auction as the only fair methodology, his Finance Minister suddenly changed his stance on 15/01/2008 that let there be an auction for the future and the past be condoned.
  3. If the Prime Minister received as many as 9 letters from Mr. A Raja giving all minute details, did it not strike him that spectrum was being sold for a song., that there was nepotism in the selection of licensees and the criteria of First cum First serve was not being followed.
  4. The Prime Minister has informed the Parliament that he accepted the entry fee suggested by then Finance Minister and the Telecom Minister on 4/7/2008. This doesn’t stand to reason . The spectrum had already been allotted on 11/1/2008.
  5. Most importantly, the latest disclosures now reveal that the Prime Minister was involved in the micro management of 2G spectrum and that even when two of the licensees went in for offloading their additional equity through the FDI route , he was informed about the legality of the act. Did it not strike the ‘Hands on’ PM that if a sale of a fraction of the shares of a Company which owned the license and the spectrum could fetch RS. 6000 Crores, how could the Government have allotted the entire spectrum at Rs.1651 Crores. This was simple economics , a subject of the PM’s specialization.
  6. The rules of the game were being altered midway. Only applications filed till 25th September 2007 were to be considered instead of 1st October 2007 which was the original cut-off date announced by the Ministry of Telecommunications. Did this advancement of date not appear motivated to the PM? Did the unfairness of the procedure not alert the PM.

These are important questions which we are raising and we expect the Prime Minister to answer the same.