When Finance Ministry officials were insisting on auction of 2G spectrum ahead of 2008, why did the then Union Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram, not put his weight behind their arguments? Senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi posed the question on Thursday.
Dr. Joshi, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee who prepared the report on the spectrum allocation issue, said the “only option” left for the Prime Minister was to get Mr. Chidambaram to resign, or dismiss him if he failed to do so. (The report was never tabled in Parliament as it failed to get past the majority on the Committee).
CPI(M) seeks probe
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into Mr. Chidambaram's role in the scandal. The Polit Bureau said it was now learnt authoritatively that Mr. Chidambaram had cleared the spectrum allotment in 2007-08 at the 2001 entry fee determined by the then National Democratic Alliance government, though officials of his own Ministry wanted an upward revision of prices.
Both Mr. Joshi and the CPI (M) referred to the “note” of the Ministry of Finance, dated March 25, 2011, that has now become part of a fresh petition in the Supreme Court.
The Polit Bureau's statement said: “Evidence has also come to light that a meeting between the then Telecom Minister, A. Raja, and Mr. P. Chidambaram, took place in January 2008, in which, according to the note prepared by the Finance Secretary, the Finance Minister stated they were not going to re-visit the issue of entry fee or revenue sharing.”
It further said: “In the light of all this mounting evidence,” there should be a CBI investigation into the role of Mr. Chidambaram.
Dr. Joshi described Mr. Chidambaram's action as “disgraceful” and held him responsible for the scandal of gigantic proportions. It was also clear that the Prime Minister was in the know of all developments in relation to the spectrum allocation. It was time the CBI “interrogated Mr. Chidambaram.”
He said different agencies had differently quantified the presumed losses suffered by the exchequer; the Comptroller and Auditor-General, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and the CBI had mentioned different figures. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, he said, should try and quantify the losses.