BJP leader Arun Jaitley has demanded that Union Minister for Communications and Information Technology A. Raja should not stay in office in the interest of a fair investigation into “the biggest scandal since Independence.”
The “value” of the 2G spectrum allocation scandal was no longer a matter of conjecture. It was simple arithmetic. Each of the nine licences was allotted to operators for roughly Rs. 1,650 crore, and some almost immediately sold 60 to 70 per cent equity in their companies for Rs. 4,500 crore to Rs. 9,000 crore, Mr. Jaitley said.
Referring to the recent comments made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the CBI raids on offices of the Telecommunications Department, he said: “It was unfortunate that the Prime Minister has chosen to comment on the innocence of the Minister even while investigations are on … We have to see whether the Prime Minister allows a fair investigation and takes it to its logical conclusion … His concern for probity is under trial.”
Mr. Jaitley, who is also the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said the Minister had publicly stated that he kept the Prime Minister informed about the policy decisions on 2G spectrum allotment. It was now for the government to say who was guilty and the investigations should unearth the full story.
Mr. Jaitley’s apprehension was that the raids would not be allowed to reach the top, but would point accusing fingers at some civil servants. On policy matters involving thousands of crores of rupees, it was unthinkable that any decision would be taken by civil servants. Propriety demanded that while investigations were on, the Minister should not be in office, the BJP leader said.
The fact that while allocating 3G spectrum the government was now talking about taking the auction route was itself an indication that the earlier approach was wrong and not transparent, he said.
Applications were invited for allocating telecom licences and 2G spectrum with the last date being October 1, 2007. However, the cut-off date was then advanced to September 25 and all applications received after September 25 were declared invalid. A number of real estate companies with no infrastructure or experience in telecom were the beneficiaries of this artificial cut-off date. Having secured the spectrum and licences, they sold 60 to 70 per cent of their equity to other companies to set up joint venture companies. Spending Rs. 1,650 crore on the licence, they collected, in some instances, as much as Rs. 9,000 crore.
Centaur Hotel issue
Asked about Mumbai Juhu Centaur Hotel disinvestment during the National Democratic Alliance regime — the hotel was sold by the government for a certain sum and then the company buying it re-sold it for a far higher sum within months — Mr. Jaitley said: “The case was referred to the CBI by the UPA government. Nothing was found and it was closed.”