Almost two months after the CBI arrested former telecom minister A Raja along with two officials for their alleged role in the 2G scam, the Ministry of Finance sent a 10-page note to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) saying that had the ministry — then under P Chidambaram — “stuck to the stand of auctioning the 4.4 MHz spectrum”, the DoT (Department of Telecom) could have cancelled the licences.
The letter, sent to Vini Mahajan, joint secretary in the PMO, on March 25, 2011, is signed by the finance ministry’s deputy director (Infrastructure and Investment Division) P G S Rao. It says that “the note has been seen by the Finance Minister” (Pranab Mukherjee).
It says that in a meeting on January 30, 2008, between the then ministers of finance and telecommunications (Chidambaram and Raja), it was noted by the then finance minister that he was “for now not seeking to revisit the current regimes for entry fee or revenue share”.
It adds that when the issue of pricing of new telecom licences was being decided, the then finance ministry “implicitly agreed to the imposition of same entry fee as that prevailing in 2001 for licences allotted upto December 31, 2008”.
The CBI’s main charge against Raja is that he caused a huge loss to the exchequer when he decided against taking the auction route to sell 2G spectrum to companies, some of which were allegedly ineligible to get the same. One of the key points of Raja’s defence is that he had always kept
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram in the loop before taking all decisions with regard to allocation of 2G spectrum.
When contacted by The Indian Express, Chidambaram declined to comment. But officials who worked with Chidambaram in the finance ministry said that even until a week before he moved out of the finance ministry, Chidambaram had stuck to the position on record that the 2001 entry fee of Rs 1,651 crore should be reviewed.
The March 25 letter was produced in the Supreme Court today by Janata Party president Subramaniam Swamy. Swamy has moved the apex court arguing that Chidambar’m’” “ro”e” be thoroughly investigated. The CBI has opposed this plea.
Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said today, “We do not, in any manner, accept the allegation made by Subramaniam Swamy against Chidambaram. The party does not doubt his integrity. This precise issue has been raised by Swamy in the apex court and is sub judice. Without waiting for the proceedings to be completed, it is highly objectionable and inappropriate for Swamy or anyone else to pass premature judgment on the very same issue on which he is seeking relief. We may also add that the mischievous attempt to create a rift between different constitutional functionaries is highly regrettable and ought not to be repeated.”
On June 18, current Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal had said that Chidambaram had no role in the decisions taken by Raja relating to 2G spectrum allocation.
“I can categorically say on behalf of my colleague that Chidambaram had no role to play in any of the alleged acts of corruption. Absolutely, he had no part in any sleaze. He is not privy to decisions that Raja made. For the opposition to make such allegations of this nature obviously is a sign of desperation”” he had said, referring to the allegations by the BJP, especially its president, Nitin Gadkari, that as finance minister when the 2G spectrum allocations were made, Chidambaram was party to the decisions taken by Raja.
The BJP today sought Chidambara’’s resignation from the government, saying finance ministry note shows his “complicity” in the scam.
“Ultimately, the cat is out of the bag. It was very clear from day one that Chidambaram agreed to A Raj’’s formula for 2G spectrum allocation. If he had stuck to the finance ministry officials’ position that spectrum should not be allocated in 2008 at 2001 prices, the scam would not have taken place,” BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar told reporters today.