Welcoming the Supreme Court verdict cancelling 122 2G licences, the Opposition on Thursday targeted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and P. Chidambaram, who was Finance Minister when these were granted in 2008.
The BJP and the Left parties described the verdict as a strong indictment of the UPA government and demanded an explanation from the Prime Minister.
As for Mr. Chidambaram, while the BJP stuck to its guns for his resignation, the Left sought an inquiry into his role in issue of 2G licences.
Interestingly, Nationalist Congress Party president and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar welcomed the verdict, without elaborating. He told The Hindu that he had not seen the judgment “but from what I hear it is a good thing that has happened.”
The BJP leaders, who were most vocal in hitting out at the UPA throughout the day, trained their guns on Mr. Chidambaram.
Apparently agitated at Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal's statement that the verdict was essentially an indictment of the first come, first served (FCFS) policy initiated by the NDA government, the BJP fielded its chief spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad to counter him.
At a special briefing, Mr. Prasad argued that the Prime Minister and Mr. Chidambaram could not escape responsibility for the then Telecom Minister, A. Raja's acts of omission and commission. The BJP leader said: “It was a command performance by Kapil Sibal. The court has cancelled 122 licences. But he maintains that had the Prime Minister known, he would have acted. Mr. Sibal is a senior Minister. People expect him to do his homework well and not run so far away from reality.”
There was enough evidence to prove that Dr. Singh was in the know of all the decisions taken by Mr. Raja, Mr. Prasad said and cited a series of correspondence between the Prime Minister Singh and Mr. Raja on the 2G issue.
“Is it not a fact that Dr. Singh wrote a letter on November 2, 2007 to Mr. Raja raising issues related to fairness and transparency in spectrum allocation criteria and asked him to convey his stand before any further action?”
Why didn't the Prime Minister intervene to stop Mr. Raja from going ahead with the award of licences, Mr. Prasad wanted to know.
While the Communist Party of India (Marxist) called for the resignation of Mr. Sibal for consistently refusing to cancel the licences and asserting that there had been no revenue loss, the CPI suggested that the Joint Parliamentary Committee examine the alleged role of Mr. Chidambaram.
“In the light of the judgment, the Prime Minister is duty-bound to break his silence and answer the country. The CPI(M) demands that the government immediately implement the judgment,” the Polit Bureau said in a statement.
Historic, says CPI
Describing the judgment as ‘historic,' CPI Parliamentary Party leader Gurudas Dasgupta said the decision to award these licences could not have been taken by Mr. Raja alone. “Mr. Raja could not have done it alone and must have had people in different places of power, including the Prime Minister's Office and the Ministry of Finance.” The CPI leader said that when made a demand in Parliament that the licences be cancelled, the government rejected it on the ground that by doing so, the system would collapse. “Now it is being compelled to do [so] following the Supreme Court order,” Mr. Dasgupta said.
CPI national secretary D. Raja said the verdict, besides being a “huge indictment” of the UPA government and its policies, upheld the finding of the Comptroller and Auditor-General. As for the alleged role of Mr. Chidambaram, he said the court's decision asking the trial court to examine it could be “concluded that the Supreme Court has found prima facie evidence.”