Why was former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh silent in defending the telecom policy that he himself approved? Did the then CAG Vinod Rai have any “ulterior motives” in flagging the 2G scam? These are some of the questions that former telecom minister Andimuthu Raja has touched upon in his tell-all book ‘2G Saga Unfolds’. The book comes a month after the DMK leader was acquitted in the 2G spectrum allocation case, which rocked the UPA government.
Terming the 2G scam as a “shameful blemish on the sanctity of the administrative system of the country”, Raja claimed there was a misinformation campaign that telecom lobbies were influencing decisions of the Prime Minister’s Office. In the book, Raja claimed that he had got Singh’s “approval to go ahead” for allocating 2G telecom spectrum to new players after he explained the whole process and that there was enough spectrum available.
“The UPA government’s and even more so Dr Manmohan Singh’s palpable silence in relation to defending my wholly justified actions was like silencing of our nation’s collective conscience,” he said. Raja also claimed that the former PM did not have any clue about the CBI raids with regard to the spectrum allocation.
“On October 22, 2009 (after CBI raided telecom ministry and offices of some telecom operators), I met the Prime Minister in his office in South Block at around 7.00 pm. TKA Nair (the then principal secretary in the PMO) was also present. People will find it hard to believe that the PM was quite surprised when I told him about the CBI raids,” he wrote.
Lamblasting Vinod Rai, Raja said the former CAG behaved like “a cat that shuts its eyes and then declares the universe is dark”. “He (Rai) had to foist his personal (or influenced) agenda by sensationalising information and creating the appearance of procedural lapses and financial misappropriation. His presumptive loss figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crore has been subsequently debunked, but it became engraved in public memory and led to my tribulations,” Raja wrote.
The DMK leader said there was a political motivation to “kill” the UPA 2 government and “Rai’s shoulder was used to place the gun”. While there “hasn’t been a shred of actual proof of corruption”, his telecom policy had led to growth in teledensity and dramatic reduction in call charges, Raja wrote claiming he fought against telecom lobbies to draft a just spectrum auction policy.
Telecom lobbies were dead against giving licenses to new players and just when the policy draft was in its final stages, a letter from the Prime Minister’s Office was received, the content of which matched the business interests of the lobbies, he said. “It is still a puzzle to me as to what could have prompted the PM to send that letter to me. With all due respect, I came of the opinion that such a letter bearing the PM’s signature should never have been sent. It is just not expected for the PM to get into the nitty-gritty of the operational functions, procedures and guidelines of a ministry,” he wrote. “This makes me wonder whether this letter was indeed drafted by the PMO,” he mentioned.
He goes on to state that “it seemed he (Singh) had been led to believe that there was something amiss in the functioning of my ministry”. “Vinod Rai had the temerity to dub himself the ‘Nation’s Conscience Keeper’ on the cover of his book titled ‘Not just an Accountant’ in which he dedicated a few chapters on the 2G spectrum allocation. He in his role as CAG was the ‘sutradhaar’ who created the devious apparition which the media and political opposition followed,” he wrote.
Stating that a “conspiracy-nexus” cannot be ruled out, Rai’s words and actions were “malicious vigilantism” and “disgraceful purchase of self-promotion”. Having written his book while the 2G trial was still going on, Raja demanded that Rai “be called as a witness in the criminal case filed against me so that my defence has the opportunity to cross-examine and legally challenge him”. Raja claimed that Rai compiled his report with a motive of “riling up the public” and sensationalising the situation.
“It would perhaps have been in the public’s better interest to investigate Rai’s motivation to rush into this ‘hunt’ while almost blatantly ignoring the decisions and recommendations of TRAI, the Union Cabinet and the Telecom Commission! Even after TRAI’s explanations refuted the views expressed in the CAG’s report, Rai was not willing to correct his stand. It is ironic that such a person lays claim to the badge of ‘Nation’s Conscience Keeper’,” he wrote.