NDA spectrum error not to compare with UPA "scandals": BJP

Admitting that the NDA regime did err on telecom licensing policy in the initial years, oppn BJP said that the UPA govt is drawing a parallel between judgmental mistakes and "scandals".

Last Updated: Mar 01, 2011, 19:58 PM IST

New Delhi: Admitting that the NDA regime did
err on telecom licensing policy in the initial years,
opposition BJP on Tuesday said that the UPA government is drawing a
parallel between judgmental mistakes and "scandals".

Supporting the motion for setting up of a Joint
Parliamentary Committee to probe the 2G spectrum scam, Leader
of Opposition Arun Jaitley said the government was trying to
draw a "moral equivalence" between the NDA and UPA regimes.

He said "to dilute taint" brought by the developments of
2007-08, some people tried to bring a moral equivalence to
what happened in 2003.

Jaitley said the Telecom Minister in the NDA government
should have been complimented by the present regime for the
policies which laid the foundation for the spread of
tele-density.

He was apparently referring to Arun Shourie who was the
minister in-charge of telecom during NDA regime. He said no one
had then made any allegation of personal or ethical
impropriety.

Jaitley said while the NDA government resorted to policy
shift to revenue-sharing because there were not many takers
for license in areas like West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and the
North-East, the process of spectrum allocation during 2007 was
"rigged".

Referring to grant of licences in 2007 at 2001 price,
Jaitley said, "The date of application becomes the date of
compliance....in 41 minutes the whole operation was over."

He said while the regulator TRAI, then Finance Secretary D
Subbarao (present RBI Governor) and then Finance Minister P
Chidambaram had opposed the grant of spectrum in 2007 at 2001
price, their views were ignored.

He said there was no justification of Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh comparing cheap spectrum price with subsidy for
the poor. "You cannot argue for subsidy to big corporates,
including international players", he said.

Jaitley said the JPC should also go into the question of
lobbyists influencing ministerial appointments and policy
implementation and whether India can allow the practice with a
low level of transparency.

"The dividing line between lobbying, advocacy, political
fund collection and bribery are getting obliterated. This
could be an occasion to introspect on this issue to decide
whether the institutions of lobbyists ought to be permitted in
India at all", he said.

Jaitley said it was the NDA government which ended the
duopoly (only two operators in a circle) into a multi-operator
regime, which resulted into lowering of prices for the telecom
subscribers.

Jaitley said the JPC must look into the direction and
evolution of telecom policy in the country and the deviations
from the decisions of the government.

After the 2G Spectrum allocation scam, questions have been
raised over governance, mediapersons and politicians.

Defending former telecom minister A Raja for alleged
lapses in 2G spectrum allocation, DMK member T Siva said the
then minister followed guidelines of the 10th and 11th
five-year plans while implementing the telecom policy that
resulted into a sharp rise in teledensity.

"The minister (A Raja) became a telecom minister in 2006.
Since then he has followed all guidelines of Tenth and
Eleventh Five Year Plans for the telecom sector", Siva said.

During Raja`s ministership, tele-density in rural areas
rose from 5.8 per cent (for every 100 people) in 2006 to 26
per cent now. Similarly, tele-density in urban areas rose from
48.01 per cent to 95 per cent, he said.

Pointing out that a mountain as been made out of mole
hill, Siva said the CAG`s estimates of loss to exchequer at Rs
1.76 lakh crore is "only a finding not a judicial verdict".

Raashid Alvi (Cong) said the Opposition will create noise
when the JPC report is out as it had done over earlier JPC
reports on Bofors and Harshad Mehta scams.

Tapan Kumar Sen (CPI-M) said such a committee was required
to scrutinise the lapses and referred to the losses estimated
by the CAG.

V Maitreyan (AIADMK) demanded inclusion of a member from
his party in the JPC saying, "A JPC without any member of
AIADMK is an aborted JPC."

Referring to the alleged involvement of the family of DMK
chief M Karunanidhi in corruption related to 2G spectrum
allocation, he said the family was a beneficiary of Rs 214
crore allegedly routed by DB Realty MD Shahid Balwa to
Chennai-based Kalaignar TV.

"Your investigating agencies have trailed the fund flow,
now show your guts to punish the guilty otherwise the JPC will
be a farce", Maitreyan said.

Tiruchi Siva (DMK objected to Maitreyan`s remarks that
Radia tapes carried conversation between corporate lobbyist
Nira Radia and DMK chief`s wife. He said the Chair should not
allow mention of a person who was not in the House.

Three AIADMK members including Elavarasan trooped into the
well protesting against Siva`s objection.

D Raja (CPI) said spectrum as a scarce resource is a
national asset and added, "I do not accept argument of Kapil
Sibal when he was talking about zero loss ...it could have
fetched Rs five lakh crore."

"You may call it (losses) a presumption but it was huge
loss," he said adding," now we feel sick of what is happening
in nation."

He said his party had shot off two letters to the Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh about the scam and it is not that PM
was not aware of it. He demanded that the JPC will have to
look into all aspects including policy issues.

PTI

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