The Congress on Wednesday accused the Centre of making “surreptitious” efforts to defer the recovery of spectrum auction amount from private telecom players by six years, which it claimed would cause a loss of Rs 23,821 crore to the exchequer, and dubbed it as “spectrum scam 2.0”.
Accusing the Centre of ‘wilfully’ deferring the recovery to ensure its “crony capitalists” stand benefited, the Congress asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the finance and telecom ministries to come clean on the issue.
Speaking to reporters here, chief spokesperson of the Congress Randeep Singh Surjewala claimed the finance and telecom ministries had approved the deferment and a final decision has been pending before the Union Cabinet.
In July last year, the Congress had charged the government with engaging in “spectrum scam 1.0” by “surreptitiously benefiting” some telecom companies to the tune of Rs 45,000 crore by laying the ground to junk the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report.
“Latest in the list (of the government’s scams) is the ‘spectrum scam 2.0’ whereby the BJP government is unilaterally and surreptitiously deferring recovery of spectrum auction amount by six years, thereby causing an interest loss of Rs 23,821 crore to the public exchequer,” Surjewala said.
“No wonder, the Modi government is identified as ‘suit boot sarkar’ of crony capitalists,” he said.
Surjewala said the government had on August 8 last year invited tenders for auction of spectrum in various bands. Terms of auction required an upfront payment of 50 per cent or 25 per cent of the final bid amount. The balance amount was to be paid to the government in 3+10 years from then: no payment for the first three years (till August 26, 2019) and thereafter, the amount was to be cleared in 10 equal annual instalments.
The auction ended on October 6, 2016 with the sale of 965 MHz band at a value of Rs 65,789.12 crore. Out of it, Surjewala added, an upfront amount to be paid was Rs 32,000 crore and the balance to be paid in instalments was Rs 33,789.12 crore.
There were three successful bidders, he said.
Surjewala alleged the private companies approached the government following the bid, saying they would not make payments as per the terms and conditions of the auction allegedly owing to their adverse financial condition.
He said the government then formed an inter-ministerial committee of telecom and finance ministries to look into the issue.
“Ignoring the 2G case and the terms and conditions, they decided that the companies will make payment in 19 years (instead of 13 years as per original terms) to ensure the companies benefit. The telecom ministry, telecom commission, finance ministry also gave their nod,” he alleged.
The government amending the terms and conditions “unilaterally” was in violation of the Supreme Court’s order in the 2G auction case, Surjewala said.
He added the government cannot amend the terms of auction “to grant benefits that are neither legally nor contractually permissible”.
“The BJP government’s plea that the three telecom companies are facing adverse financial condition arising on account of competitive pressure cannot be a ground to alter terms of auction to provide relief to them,” he added.
He also asked the government to come clean on whether it has committed a “grotesque breach” of public trust and whether it is acting as a “wilful collaborator” with select corporate entities in “artfully dodging” recovery of massive sums of money.
“Who benefits from this new ‘governance model’ of the BJP government?” he asked.
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