More heads should roll

By Saswat Panigrahi | Last Updated: Saturday, July 16, 2011 - 20:01

Saswat Panigrahi

The 2G scam has claimed another Union Minister. Textile minister Dayanidhi Maran who worked as the telecom minister during the UPA-I had no other choice but to resign after he was implicated in the 2G spectrum scandal.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in its status report submitted in the Supreme Court said a prima face case existed against Maran for “forcing” the then Aircel chief, C Sivasankaran to sell his stakes in Aircel to a Malaysia based firm Maxis Communications during his tenure as the telecom minister.

It is learnt that Maxis was favoured with 2G spectrum by Maran. In return, the Malaysian company invested to the tune of Rs 700 crore in Sun Network, owned by Maran’s family.

Maran’s story of abusing ministerial powers does not end here. According to a CBI report, Maran diverted 323 dedicated BSNL lines to his home in Chennai and routed them to Sun TV headquarters. This caused the state run BSNL an estimated loss of around Rs 440 crore.

In addition, Maran has been accused of demanding 33.33% shares from the Tata-Rupert Murdoch DTH project (Tata Sky) for the Sun Network.

Dayanidhi Maran is the second union minister to resign over 2G spectrum scam. He is the third DMK MP implicated in the 2G scam.

The 2G spectrum allocation scam was a result of the decision by UPA government to allocate second generation spectrum licenses far below the market price to ineligible applicants by throwing the rule book out of the windows.

It was Dayanidhi Maran, who set the tone for the 2G scam as the telecom minister during UPA-I, much before the “first-come-first-serve” spectrum allocation formula announced by his successor A Raja during UPA-II. That formula was used as a tool to officially allot illegal spectrum licences. The result: a revenue loss to the national exchequer to the tune of a staggering Rs 1.76 lakh crore.

Former telecom minister A Raja, who has been named as accused in 2G spectrum scam is presently spending his time in Tihar Jail.

Kanimozhi, daughter of DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi – has been indicted for having taken bribe of Rs 200 crore from Shahid Balwa`s DB Realty. Investigations reveal that the bribe amount was routed to Kalaignar TV, in which the DMK MP holds a 20 per cent stake. Both Kanimozhi and Balwa, named as co-accused in 2G spectrum scam are presently lodged in Tihar.

As things stand now, Karunanidhi’s English speaking grand nephew could very soon end up providing company to his party colleague A Raja, his aunt Kanimozhi and Shahid Balwa.

The story does not end here. Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram’s role in the illegal allocation of spectrum licences has come under scanner during the ongoing JPC probe into the 2G scam.

If the allegations are to be believed, then 2G scam is no longer just a DMK affair. Figures are pointing at Chidambaram for allegedly giving Raja a free hand to illegally allocate 2G licences during his tenure as a finance minister.

It was Raja who went with allocating 2G spectrum licences arbitrarily to ineligible applicants in 2008 at 2001 price.

Chidambaram, as the finance minister did nothing to stem the rot, rather he allegedly endorsed a faulty policy.

This was despite strong objections even from the Finance Ministry. Reports state, then finance secretary D Subarao wrote to the Department of telecom to stop spectrum allotment on old price.

It is learnt that Chidambaram held two meetings with Raja to discuss the spectrum pricing issues prior to and after the allotment of the spectrum. The records of the official meetings between the two ministers were maintained. But, surprisingly there are no recorded minutes of the meetings.

The disclosers’ point to Chidambaram’s alleged complicity in the 2G spectrum scam.

But, Congress remains defiant on the issue. UPA trouble-shooter and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee defended Chidambaram by saying, “Every day some minister comes and it is not possible to keep their record of the meeting or the minutes of the meeting because there is no need.”

It is not only Chidambaram but another senior Congress leader allegedly is involved in 2G scam. Telecom minister Kapil Sibal, popular for his bizarre “Zero loss” theory has been accused of giving a penalty waiver to Reliance Communications. Sibal allegedly cut down an imposed penalty against Reliance Communications from Rs 50 crore to Rs 5 crore.

The UPA Government’s reaction on the issue has been knee-jerk. It is underplaying the misdeeds done under its regime. Rather, it has shifted the blame to the previous NDA government. UPA says allocation of spectrum was made in accordance with the National Telecom Policy 1999, introduced during the BJP-led NDA government.

The JPC, probing the 2G scam is also presently looking into the financial implications of the spectrum allocation during the NDA rule. The Department of Telecom (DoT) tentatively pegged the loss due to the migration package offered to cellular operators during the NDA rule at Rs. 43,523 crore.

There is a lot more to this scam than meets the eye. Both Chidambaram and Sibal are facing allegations of serious wrong doings. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could have removed both the tainted ministers when he shook up the Cabinet’s midriff. But the portfolios of both the ministers remain untouched as PM has chosen to stand by Chidambaram and Sibal. This outlines UPA government’s willingness to fight against corruption. The nation wants an answer from the ‘honest’ PM.



First Published: Wednesday, August 3, 2011 - 22:09

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