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2G JPC: Cong readies to take on BJP

By Renu Mittal
February 25, 2011 01:38 IST
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With the government moving a resolution in the Lok Sabha to set up a Joint Parliamentary Committee on the 2G spectrum issue, the battle lines between the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance and the Bharatiya Janata Party have become more tightly drawn with the Congress preparing its ammunition to target the BJP during its National Democratic Alliance government, in a bid to expose the actions of their telecom ministers. 

Kapil Sibal targeted the NDA's telecom ministers saying that the policies and rules framed by them had been followed during the NDA regime. Quoting from the recent CAG report he said the report had said that losses to the tune of Rs 12,000 crores had been because of the NDA ministers' policies. He said that the BJP had also followed the policy of first come first serve and said no company in this country paid for spectrum. "If Raja gave spectrum free he is a criminal and should go to jail but if other ministers gave spectrum free then they are not culpable", said Sibal while attacking the former BJP ministers.

Sources said that the Congress has the paper work to back up its claims and much of this material is likely to see the light of day when the JPC actually begins its sittings and conducts day to day hearings on the scam.

Sources revealed that on May 6 2004, just 10 days before the results of the general elections were announced where the BJP-led NDA was voted out of power, the then Telecom minister Arun Shourie gave 6.2 MHz to Sunil Bharti Mittal for the Bihar, Orissa and UP-East circles.

According to the rules, the telecom company  should have had a subscriber base of 3 lakhs but for Bihar this was completed only in August 2005, for Orissa in September 2005 and for UP East in June 2005. Obviously this condition was violated as the required subscriber base was reached only after additional spectrum was granted.

The present government also has enough evidence to prove that Arun Shourie overturned Cabinet policy on allocation of licenses through the auction route and instead opted for a First Come First Serve policy.

Union Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal, while targeting the Bharatiya Janata Party asked the question, "who else should go to jail for what has happened? Raja is already in jail".

Interestingly in 1999, the first telecom minister in the NDA, Jagmohan was unceremoniously removed from the job by his own party since he had refused to play ball in manipulating policy. On the issue of revenue sharing he had penned a note on the file which reads, "even Idi Amin( Uganda's dictator) will not agree to this".

In the terms of reference for the JPC, the government has put a time frame from 1998 to 2009 which will bring under scrutiny the policies of both the NDa and the UPA since the new telecom policy only kicked off in 1998.

The JPC would examine the policies and their interpretations by successive governments which would include decisions of the union cabinet and its consequences in the allocation and pricing of telecom licenses and spectrum during this period.

The 30-member JPC would examine the irregularities and aberrations and the consequences in the implementation of government decisions and policy during this period and would make recommendations to ensure the formulation of appropriate procedures for implementation of laid down policy in the allocation and pricing of telecom licenses.

While the name of the chairman of the JPC has not been finalized and would be announced by the Lok Sabha speaker later after the Rajya Sabha approves the resolution, the choice is between Kishore Chandra Deo and P C Chacko.

Sources say the decision has still not been taken even as the PMO is reportedly pushing hard for Chacko, while there is a section which feels that Deo has seniority and enjoys a reputation of being mature.

With elections in Kerala just round the corner, it is felt that Chacko would need to campaign and may not find enough time for the committee, which has a tenure till the end of the monsoon session, which can be extended if required.

The Congress members from the Lok Sabha on the JPC would be Kishore Chandra Deo, Paban Singh Ghatowar, Jai Prakash Agarwal, Deepender Singh Hooda, PC Chacko, Manish Tewari, Nirmal Khatri and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary.

The BJP members would be Jaswant Singh,Yashwant Sinha, Harin Pathak, Gopinath Munde. Sharad Yadav from the Janata Dal-Secular, T R Baalu from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Kalyan Banerjee from the Trinamool Congress, Dara Singh Chauhan from the Bahujan Samaj Party, Akhilesh Yadav from the Samajwadi Party, Gurudas Dasgupta from the Communist Party of India, Arjun Charan Sethi from the Biju Janata Dal and Thambi Durai from the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. 

The BJP had offered to give up one of its seats to accommodate the Shiv Sena but sources said that the Sena after consulting its leaders had declined. Laloo Yadav, who does not find a place on the JPC lobbied hard to be accommodated and spoke to both Sonia Gandhi and Pranab Mukherjee in the house but to no avail.

There is a belief that the Congress should make both its spokespersons from the Rajya Sabha--Jayanti Natrajan and Abhishek Singhvi--members  of the JPC since the BJP is bringing in Ravi Shankar Prasad and SS Ahluwalia with a leader saying that since this is a "battle of perceptions", the spokesmen could also play a crucial role.

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Renu Mittal in New Delhi
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