CBI Raids Radia, Kanimozhi, Raja Family and Friends
NEW DELHI/CHENNAI | DEC 15, 2010
In a crackdown as part
of the 2G spectrum scam probe, CBI today searched 34 offices and residences of
corporate lobbyist Nira Radia, former TRAI Chairman Pradip Baijal, siblings of
ex-Telecom Minister A Raja and an NGO linked to DMK MP Kanimozhi.
Amid the growing bewilderment among all sections of the people about the succession of corruption cases tumbling out of the cupboards of the Government, one question remains an enigma, about the 2G spectrum scam. How did the admittedly and inarguably the most honest and humble Prime Minister India has seen, preside over such brazen actions of then Telecom Minister A.Raja?
The documents of the letters exchanged between Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh and A.Raja, on the 2G issue, as well as the note of the Law Secretary, between Nov.1 2007 and Jan.3,2008, which we have acquired( please see the documents below), shows a distinct audacity on the part of Raja. He summarily dismisses the suggestion of then Law Minister H.R.Bharadwaj to form an Empowered Group of Ministers(EGoM), as “totally out of context”. He also brazenly tells the Prime Minister that though time was given for submitting applications till Oct.1, 2007, he will take into consideration applications of only those who have submitted it on or before Sept.25,2007, and gets away with it.
However subsequently, as Rajya Sabha MP, Rajeev Chandrashekar in his open letter to Ratan Tata ( http://www.rajeev.in/blog/?p=206) points out, Raja accepts the application of Tata Teleservices, though it is submitted on Oct.22, and ignores 343 other applications and rejects 110 others, and again gets away with it.
The furious exchange of letters on Nov.2,2007, two from Raja to Prime Minister and one from PM to Raja, indicates the seriousness of the issue. In Fact PM cautions Raja and lists out his concerns in an annexure to the letter, and says that fairness and transparency should be adopted in distributing the 2G spectrum(see the documents below).
However, on Dec.26,2007, Raja rejects all concerns, including the Prime Minister’s and in a five page letter containing three pages of annexure, he tells Dr.Manmohan Singh with a tone of finality, “since the file for issue of LOI(Letter of Intent) to all eligible applicants was approved me on Nov.2,2007, it is proposed to implement the decision without further delay and without any departure from existing guidelines”. The tone and tenor of this clear, “I won’t accept any more interference”!
Why did the Prime Minister throw in the towel, and allow Raja to have his way, though as subsequent events have proved, were to say the least, controversial, not transparent, and biased.
Was the Prime Minister afraid or worried about opening up too many fronts within the UPA? Did he succumb to the pressure of the DMK? Or was he just too occupied with something else, and had no time or inclination to pursue the 2G issue to its logical and fair end?
A study of the events that were occurring during the period when the Prime Minister exchanged letters with Raja between Nov.2, 2007 and Jan.3, 2008, gives an indication of how and where his mind was occupied. On Jan.3, when he wrote his final letter just acknowledging Raja’s letter, Sonia Gandhi was admitted to Ganga Ram Hospital with viral infection of her respiratory tract. The entire previous week, had witnessed the humiliation of Congress in the State legislative Assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh(losing power in the latter), and BJP was upbeat and already talking of a comeback at the centre.
Meanwhile, CPI(M) stalwart, Jyoti Basu was talking in Kolkata about the revival of a third front to take on both Congress and the BJP. The Ram Sethu issue had embarrassed the UPA Government and DMK was embarrassing it further, even as the entire Sangh Parivar was up in arms, demanding that Ram Sethu be declared a national monument, by holding rallies all over, including Delhi.
Just two weeks earlier on Nov.17, after protracted and tense negotiations with the left parties, Prime Minister had managed to get a go-ahead from CPI(M) General Secretary, Prakash Karat, to hold talks with the IAEA. (http://www.indianexpress.com/news/hours-after-lefts-ok-govt-tells-kakodkar-speak-to-iaea-chief/240495/0). His focus therefore was not to fritter away this window of opportunity provided to him. His attention during entire November and December was therefore completely devoted to the IAEA talks, even as the left parties kept threatening to pull out of the Government, if it went ahead with the nuclear deal. The UPA Government had been teetering on the brink(http://www.indianexpress.com/news/breakup-averted-for-now-vienna-trip-on/240202/0) for the entire November, when Raja was merrily going ahead disregarding all words of caution and concerns.
Prime Minister, meanwhile was too busy also working out alternative options , if the left parties were to withdraw support(which they subsequently did only in July 2008). It was very clear that he had already had Samajawadi party in his view to bail him out, though it did come as a surprise later to everyone(http://www.indianexpress.com/news/unpa-breaks-with-left-on-ndeal/244951/0), when Samajawadi Party did bail out the UPA Government.
However, there was no way in which the Prime Minister could not have been aware of the battle going on in the Telecom ministry with the service providers. The media was full of stories of the problems, (http://www.indianexpress.com/news/govt-to-hold-spectrum-talks-with-telcos-today…-sans-rookies/241585/0. Interestingly, on Dec.27, a day after Raja with finality told the Prime Minister that he was going ahead with his policy to allocate spectrum and issue of LOIs, S-Tel one of the companies in the fray offered a huge amount of over Rs.13,000 crore over and above the spectrum charges as revenue sharing. (http://www.indianexpress.com/news/stel-offers-rs-13-752-cr-for-panindia-spec/255103/). But Prime Minister, in his reply on Jan.3 made no mention of it, and just kept mum.
In another interesting development on Dec.13, 2007, at the India Telecom Meet organized by the FICCI, Prime Minister while speaking there, had stated, “The revenue potential to the Government must not be lost sight of. After all, governments across the globe have harnessed substantial revenues while allocating spectrum.” But Raja, talking on the sidelines of the same meet, after PM had spoken had brushed aside the suggestion of the PM, as far as 2G is concerned. “We cannot adopt the auctioning route for existing 2G spectrum due to legal barriers. But for next generation mobile services (3G), the Government has already announced a policy that frequency will be allocated on the basis of auction,”(http://www.indianexpress.com/news/raja-says-no-to-2g-spectrum-auctioning/249735/)
Again interestingly, Prime Minister who just over two weeks back, had spoken on revenue potential, did not raise the issue in his Jan.3,2008 letter, though Raja had decided to take the least revenue option.
However, what was more surprising, was that just the next day, Dec.10, Tatas filed a petition before TDSAT, demanding that DoT should ask GSM operators to surrender excess spectrum beyond the contracted 6.2 Mhz. (http://www.indianexpress.com/news/tata-moves-tdsat-on-spectrum/248869/0) Was this petition to help Raja prove himself to be “rational, fair and action-oriented”? Was this part of the Radia plan in tune with Raja, to corner GSM operators, including Airtel among others, after getting Ratan Tata to publicly praise him to his “leader”?
Should not have Prime Minister taken note of all these extra-ordinary happenings in public, with media full of the reports about the controversy? Was he so engrossed in his own nuclear deal battles, which he had made it into a matter of personal prestige and glory, that he ignored what Raja was upto? If only he had taken some time off from his pet project and put brakes on Raja and allowed an EGoM to look into the issue, which he incidentally has set up in dozens during the last six and half years, we would not be discussing the 2G scam today. Manmohan Singh may be the most honest Prime Minister we have had, but he certainly is not the most vigilant Prime Minister we have had. Wittingly or otherwise.