A former head of India’s telecom regulator has alleged that ex-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned him of “harm” if he did not cooperate with policies that led to the multi-crore 2G scam in the telecom industry.
Pradip Baijal, who was chief of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) till 2006, made the claim in his self-published book "The Complete Story of Indian
Reforms: 2G, Power and Private Enterprise - A Practitioner's Diary”.
His allegations are the latest in a series of accusations that Singh ignored or did nothing to prevent corruption while the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was in power.
Baijal told NDTV on Tuesday that changes he recommended – including ending a first-come, first-serve approach for issuing 2G or second generation frequency allocation licences – were ignored. This resulted in the 2G scam, one of the country's largest corruption cases in which the Comptroller and Auditor General estimated losses at Rs. 1766.45 billion ($28 billion).
An accused in the 2G scam, Baijal also claimed in his book that the CBI wanted him to "implicate" former Union minister Arun Shourie and industrialist Ratan Tata in the case.
Baijal, who was appointed head of the TRAI by the NDA government in 2003, said the 2G scam began under UPA's telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran.
"They (CBI) had warned me in each case that I would be harmed if I didn't cooperate. Incidentally, this was exactly what the eminent economist Prime Minister had told me would happen if I did not cooperate in their scheme of things in the 2G case," Baijal wrote.
There was no immediate reaction from former Prime Minister Singh.
Baijal told PTI, "I have said everything. It is 100% correct and I have evidence to prove everything."
This is the third book in a little more than a year that has levelled serious allegations against Singh and his government. The first book was written by Singh’s media advisor Sanjaya Baru and another was penned by former coal secretary PC Parekh, an accused in the coal block allocation scam.
Baijal further wrote that in 2004, when Singh picked DMK leader Dayanidhi Maran as telecom minister, he had warned of a possible conflict of interest as Maran's family owns a large broadcasting business.
He claimed "the PM dismissed the concerns" and that Maran threatened him to abandon his initiative to end the first-come, first-served policy for telecom licenses. Singh, Baijal said, urged him not to upset Maran because DMK was crucial to his coalition government.
Baijal further said he was "not treated properly" after he made recommendations on the unified licensing regime that would have replaced the first-come, first-served scheme. "That led to many problems and that led to adverse inference against me by the ruling party then," he said.
Maran and his successor A Raja suppressed Baijal’s recommendations and sold spectrum to "a selected few without following any rules or procedures", the former TRAI chief alleged.
Telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, senior leader of the ruling BJP, said Baijal’s revelations showed how the UPA government had failed to tackle graft.
"The government of Dr Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi had to face lot of shame because of the 2G scam. Repeatedly they used to talk about zero loss and make fun of the CAG report...now if Pradip Baijal has written this…it is really unfortunate," Prasad told reporters in Bengaluru.