The Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Saturday termed “bizarre” Union Communications Minister Kapil Sibal's defence of the 2G spectrum scam and reiterated its demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe.
“The Minister, by his unprecedented attack on the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG), is trying to undermine the various inquiries that are under way and influence official agencies. This is totally unacceptable…With Mr. Sibal's statement, this government has lost all credibility that it can carry out an impartial probe…,” the Polit Bureau said in a statement.
It was clear from Mr. Sibal's defence that the UPA government was far more deeply involved in the scam and that it was not confined to the lone acts of the former Minister, A. Raja. Therefore, it was important that a JPC be constituted to go into it.
The party said that in Mr. Sibal's view, the CAG used the 2010 prices of the 3G spectrum for 2008, when the subscriber base and the price of the rupee were different. Strangely enough, he did not, by the same logic, see any problem in using the prices of 2001, when there were just four million subscribers, for issuing licences in 2008 when the subscriber base was 300 million.
Not only the CAG but also the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) suggested that the 3G spectrum prices be used for benchmarking the 2G spectrum and gave technical reasons why this could be done, the party said.
As for Mr. Sibal's argument that the NDA's 1999 policy to shift from the fixed licence fees to a revenue-sharing regime had caused a loss to the exchequer, the party said the Minister found it out rather late, and it appeared a mere defence of the current scam.
The CPI(M) said that it was the Left that had questioned the successive scams in the telecom sector — from the “infamous” case-by-case approach adopted by the former Communications Minister, Sukh Ram, to the NDA government switching to the revenue-sharing model in 1999, and now the 2G scam.
“Sibal must realise that the earlier scams under the Congress or the NDA cannot be used to justify the current 2G scam. The Left has not only raised the question of culpability of those whose acts have led to this huge loss to the exchequer but recovering this loss from those corporate houses who have benefited from Raja's 2G largesse.”
The party said Mr. Sibal's statement was meant to protect the “ill-gotten gains” the corporate houses made by securing 2G licences and spectrum at throwaway prices.
Questioning the timing of Mr. Sibal's statement, CPI national secretary D. Raja wondered what prompted him to come out with the defence, even before the Justice Shivraj Patil Committee, conducting an internal inquiry, submitted its report. The Minister had promised to recover the revenue loss from telecom companies and cancel the licences of companies that did not comply with the conditions. This strengthened the Opposition's demand for a JPC.