Even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made an appeal on Saturday “to all political parties to allow Parliament to function” and make space for “reasoned debate” to raise “nationally acceptable” approaches, while promising action against the guilty, the Congress continued to deflect attention from the Comptroller and Auditor-General's report on the 2G spectrum allocation issue, stressing that it was “not the final word on the subject.”
This when its contents persuaded the United Progressive Alliance government to sack A. Raja as former Telecom Minister last Sunday.
The CAG report has estimated that the government lost revenue of around Rs. 1.77 lakh crore because of the modalities of sale of spectrum adopted by Mr. Raja in 2008.
Party spokesperson Manish Tewari pointed to the executive summary of the CAG report, which says that “Each set of assumptions [on the loss to the exchequer] underlying the economic models could be open to question and be disputed,” and stressed that the right forum to examine the CAG was the Public Accounts Committee. “The PAC must meet soon,” he said, “as this is the right forum.”
The Congress also pointed out that the PAC was headed by a senior Opposition leader, Murli Manohar Joshi, and surely the Opposition trusted Mr. Joshi to scrutinise the CAG report. If a Joint Parliamentary Committee was to be constituted, sources said, it could be based on what the PAC had to say.
Mr. Tewari's comments come in the wake of Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's remarks at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on Friday. Mr. Mukherjee, too, had said, that the CAG report should not be taken as the last word on the subject and that it was important to wait till the PAC had examined the report.
“I'm not raising any doubts about CAG's bona fides,” he said, “but this is not the end. The report will have to be re-examined by the PAC, further evidence will be called for. Only then will we have the final report of the CAG.” He said extrapolating revenue estimates based on revenues earned by selling 3G spectrum might not be right. He had expected the 3G spectrum auction to fetch around Rs. 35,000 crore, but in fact, it realised much more. “Please remember this type of calculation is sometimes made with hindsight after seeing experiences in other areas,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Congress welcomed the Prime Minister's statement at the Summit, promising action against anybody for any “wrong thing” done in the 2G spectrum allocation. It also pointed out that the UPA government had ordered a CBI inquiry into the issue.
The Congress attacked the BJP over the issue of corruption, daring it to act against Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa over the allegations of irregularities in allotment of land to his kin. “The BJP is a devotee of corruption,” said Mr. Tewari, adding “the Congress is an epitome of morality and stands for value-based politics.”
“Therefore, if anything emerges in the public space, which even remotely impinges on political probity, then the Congress party and the UPA have always acted.”