Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal, who succeeded A Raja as telecom minister in the UPA government, tells The Indian Express that the 2G case verdict exposes the ‘double standards’ of CAG
How do you see the judgment on the 2G case?
It is a moral victory for the Congress because the court has held that there was no corrupt motive involved and the whole theory of loss is totally irrelevant. On both these counts, we have been vindicated. A lot of damage was done by Vinod Rai (former CAG) by going behind the policy. And then throwing up the theory of presumptive loss, which had no basis. That theory can be applied to any public asset which is given at a reduced price. That people should be prosecuted for giving any public asset at a reduced price? That theory is also rejected by the court. Where there is actual loss, there is no prosecution.
What are you referring to?
In demonetisation, there was actual loss of over 3 lakh crore. There was a 2 per cent dip in GDP. Everybody involved in the policy framework of demonetisation should be prosecuted on that logic. The present CAG says we cannot go behind policy. Rai went behind the policy. Therefore, these are the double standards of the CAG. On one hand, you don’t prosecute for actual loss and on the other hand you prosecute for presumptive loss.
2G spectrum allocation and its subsequent cancellation threw the telecom sector into turmoil. As a former telecom minister, how do you see the sector rebounding?
Because of the allegations, individual reputations were tarnished and people went to jail for no reason. It cost the economy of the country. Because all licences were cancelled, and the result was many people could not pay back their loans. For no fault of theirs. That contributed to the NPAs. So this shows how a thoughtless decision can impact the economy of the country in the long term. From all points of view, Rai is responsible for the loss to the nation and to the telecom sector. So he must be thrown out… and the Prime Minister and the BJP should stop this canard and propaganda they have been indulging in for years. If at all it is a scam, it is a scam of lies of the BJP. Rai should apologise to the nation.
The UPA has been carrying this baggage of 2G, CWG and in the BJP’s words ‘Jijaji’. Can the Congress start afresh in the run-up to 2019?
They (BJP) have got some captive channels with them, who will do their bidding. The BJP is not interested in the future of the nation, they are more interested in their electoral future. Therefore, they will continue to make irresponsible statements. We don’t expect anything better from them.
The fact remains that the Supreme Court had cancelled all 122 unified access service licences issued in January 2008 by Raja. The court had called the allocation illegal and an example of the arbitrary exercise of power.
Which is why the enormous loss caused to the nation. Unless there is culpability, on what basis can you cancel licences of innocent investors? That is why the Supreme Court should not be interfering in economic policies. The Supreme Court is final, it is not necessarily right.
The government argument today is the subsequent action fetched more revenue?
Anything will fetch more revenue. That is why the sector is where it is. This sector is not a milch cow to the treasury. This sector is meant for telephonic services at cheap rates and efficient telecom services for consumers. This is not meant to enrich the treasury. The policy prescription is wrong. They should share in the profits in the industry. They should not destroy the industry. So today they say they want to defer the payments of the telecom operators who are not willing to pay. Isn’t that a scam? There are contracts in which they have to pay by a certain date. And they cannot pay. And this government is saying it is alright, we will give you time. That itself is a scam.
You personally came under attack for saying that there was zero loss to the government as a result of giving 2G licences.
My position stands vindicated. I have never made a U-turn. When I succeeded Raja as Telecom Minister, I went through the files and looked at the facts and then told the people of the country there is nothing wrong that has happened. And today, my position, the government’s position and the Prime Minister’ position has been vindicated.
What would you like to tell Rai?
I think public functionaries should be more responsible when they take a decision of such magnitude.
Some of your colleagues today said he played into the BJP’s hands. Do you agree?
I am not that irresponsible to make statements of that nature without evidence. I would say his was an irresponsible decision which cost the government, cost the treasury, cost the nation… and in fact it cost us our government. The BJP is in power today because the people bought the lies peddled by them and part of the credit goes to the media as well because you bought the lies. The court verdict proved that we were right.
While you lost the government, some people gained. The campaign by Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, the whole India Against Corruption movement began in the wake of the 2G and CWG allegations. What do you want to tell them?
Whatever it is, people rode on lies and came to power on the basis of lies. So the real scam is the scam of lies of the opposition. Rai caused a lot of loss not just to the credibility of the Congress, but to the telecom sector. The telecom sector is in heavy debt today because of his presumptive loss theory. Licences were cancelled and people could not pay back their loans… A lot of NPAs in banks today are on account of the fact that the licences were cancelled, people had borrowed from banks…they could not repay to the banks. His theory was contrary to the norms. Rai and the BJP are squarely responsible for the kind of environment that has been created on the basis of which the BJP came to power. If the telecom sector is in dire straits today, it is because of Rai and the BJP.