Government wants to derail the issue; TRAI did not do anything “surreptitiously”

The former Telecom Minister, Arun Shourie, who appeared before the CBI here on Friday in connection with the probe into the 2G spectrum scam, accused the government of misleading the nation over the issue.

“What were senior members of the government doing when all this was happening? Were they sleeping? The government wants to derail this issue,” he said, speaking to journalists after his session with the CBI interrogators.

He was questioned along with the then Department of Telecom Secretary, Vinod Vaish. He said he requested the presence of Mr. Vaish and some other officials because of their technical knowledge of the issue.

Mr. Shourie, a well-known journalist and author, said he had given the CBI a 50-page note he prepared on various issues relating to the 2G spectrum allocation policy, and expressed his willingness to appear before the agency again, if called.

He said he informed the CBI that the TRAI did not do anything “surreptitiously” during his tenure, and all the decisions were taken after open consultations. “Not one of the 28 licences was given for any lucrative area. They were given for the areas in which nobody was going. The objective of the government was that in the northeast, Bihar, Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, mobile telephony should be extended, and we achieved that.”

The CBI should concentrate on where the money was exchanged, than on procedures, because they were mere circumstantial evidence of any change made in them to benefit some parties. “I pointed out to them [the investigators] that the things which were to happen in accordance with Cabinet decisions never happened neither during Mr. Maran's term and certainly not under Mr. Raja. And they never went back to the Cabinet for changing the decision. That is the telling point… Real issue is money was exchanged.”

He said that during his session with the CBI, he clarified some “four-five issues” raised by Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal and the Justice Shivraj Patil report, which he said was based on “concoctions.” The government was trying to divert attention from the real issue: kickbacks were received in the 2G spectrum allocation.

According to the CBI, nearly 50 licences were given during 2003-04 on a first come, first served basis, and Bharti, Vodafone and Idea were among the beneficiaries. Asked about the Prime Minister's statement on coalition politics, Mr. Shourie said: “Now [that] Mr. Raja has been put in jail, has any consequence followed for the coalition? Why not look at the compulsions of the DMK? They [the DMK] cannot go against the Central government. See their compulsions as well.”

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