New documents show that the Prime Minister’s Office, under instructions from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to examine ex-Telecom Minister A. Raja’s controversial 2G decisions, actively supported Mr. Raja before the scam, only to seek “arm’s length” distance from him once the 2G licences were allocated on January 10, 2008 amid intense media scrutiny and Opposition attacks.
Pulok Chatterji, who presented the analysis on file on December 31, 2007, was appointed Secretary in the PMO, two days later on January 2, 2008. A detailed discussion between Mr. Chatterji and the then Principal Secretary, PMO, T.K.A. Nair is recorded on January 6, 2008, on page 1/N–5/N which concludes in agreement with Mr. Raja’s last letter to the Prime Minister.
Mr. Nair signed off his approval on January 7, 2008, just three days before the 2G scam was perpetrated on January 10, 2008.
The file movement began again after the scam, with a noting on January 11: “PM says that the DoT has issued the licences today. That may be taken into account and the issues accordingly modified and submitted to him. Pl.”
On January 15, Mr. Chatterji sought permission to resubmit the PMO’s agreement on the modified first-come-first-served (FCFS) process, allocation of threshold spectrum on meeting LoI conditions and auctions only beyond threshold levels, to Secretary, DoT. It is at this point that the PS to the PM, B.V.R. Subrahmanyam, on January 23, 2008, instructed that: “PM wants this informally shared with Department. Does not want formal communication and wants PMO to remain at arm’s length please.”
Within two days, Mr. Chatterji complied with the order. He wrote: “Informally shared with DoT. We may keep on file.”
Though the Prime Minister has attempted to separate himself from Mr. Raja’s actions through his statements in Parliament and a TV Editors press conference in February 2011, this fresh evidence establishes that Mr. Raja was not alone in pursuing a line of action that has since landed him in legal trouble.
The documents provide a clue to why, in the face of public anger, media scrutiny and questions by the Opposition in Parliament, the Congress and the UPA-II government threw their entire weight behind Mr. Raja, until the CAG report and Supreme Court observations forced him to resign in November 2010.
They also explain why senior Cabinet Ministers had to take an aggressive public stance on 2G in 2011, to prevent its flames reaching 7 Race Course Road, and finally the reasons for UPA members in the JPC investigating 2G to resist demands for either Dr. Singh or Mr. Raja to be called in as witnesses.