While supporting the UPA government from outside,SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has been putting sustained pressure on the Centre on spectrum-related issues,sending at least half-a-dozen letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,and then finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar when they were heading the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM).
In his bid to influence the governments decisions,he sent one letter to Mukherjee and two to the Prime Minister in June this year. On June 30,he sent two letters to Pawar on a single day,following these with another the very next day. His letters to Pawar came barely a week before the EGoM meeting that was expected to take key decisions on the auctioning of 2G spectrum.
The central theme of his letters was largely about protecting the interest of newer players who entered the markets much later against old operators like Bharti,Vodafone and Idea,who he termed as part of GSM cartel in one of his letters to Pawar.
Significantly,the SP chief sought to use the 2G scam to put pressure on the government. In a letter to the PM on June 10,he said he was very concerned about the telecom departments proposal on payment of new auction-determined price of spectrum by all mobile operators for the remaining period of their licences.
The government has already had to face severe embarrassment,long before CBI investigations,adverse reports by CAG,and sustained public criticism,because of the random and arbitrary manner in which the DoT functioned from 2008 to 2010 to favour a handful of parties. It appears that the DoT officials have still not learnt anything from these unfortunate developments. It is obvious that this new proposal has deliberately been thought of to benefit the older GSM mobile operators who have enjoyed the benefit of spectrum at the old lower prices for 17-18 years and who will have to pay the higher price for only the remaining two-three years of their licences, he wrote.
Stating that the newer players who entered the markets much later would get the benefit of the old prices for only 6-10 years and would have to pay the new higher price for a much longer period of 10-14 years,he said: I suspect that some other considerations are at work because this is not how honest officers are expected to perform their duties.
In his second letter to the PM 10 days later,which came out in public domain,Yadav said the government should not give in to demands for reduction of the minimum price set for spectrum.
Referring to TRAIs recommendation of a flat spectrum usage charge (SUC) of 3 per cent for the auctioned spectrum in one of his letters to Pawar on June 30,he said: It is strange that the government,under the lobby of GSM cartel,is giving a gift of more than Rs 80,000 crore for subsidising and funding their participation in the forthcoming spectrum auction… This will be a big scandal,if approved under your leadership… To avoid another serious scam in the telecom sector due to subsidy or discount in the SUC,following is therefore suggested…
In his second letter to Pawar,sent the same day,he opposed any reduction in the reserve price for 2G spectrum in 1800 MHz band. The government revenues are sacrosanct and need to be protected, he said.
While the developments in subsequent weeks indicated that the SP supremo did not have his way entirely on 2G spectrum reserve price,for instance his letters indicate how UPA allies have been seeking to leverage their outside support.