The UPA government and the Congress went on the offensive on Thursday, questioning the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s estimate of a Rs. 1.76-lakh crore loss to the exchequer resulting from spectrum allocation at rates fixed in 2001, while also demanding overhaul of the CAG’s method of calculations. Lending ammunition to the government — and the Congress’ — firepower is the recent auction of 2G spectrum that flopped, yielding only Rs. 9,407 crore, barely a fourth of the amount that was expected.

The government has demanded a comprehensive overhaul of how the CAG calculates presumptive loss figures when a resource is not auctioned off but sold in any other manner. The Supreme Court ordered the auction after cancelling 122 2G licences of operators in February 2012.

On Thursday, the new Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari led the government attack, asking CAG Vinod Rai why the spectrum auction had yielded so little: “Mr. CAG, where is the 1.76 lakh crore?” He said, “It’s time the CAG introspects on his processes and it is high time that the BJP and some of the other opposition parties, which had made this their holy grail over the last two years, publicly apologised.” Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal, however, said the government was not there to score points. “Our point always was that market dynamics should be allowed to play out. The moment you start dealing with the market directly or indirectly then it will be bad.” The government should intervene only when required and its purpose was to ensure development and prosperity. “We are not here to feel vindicated,” he said.

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