Minister who acted like a Raja
At the centre of the 2G scam is the change of dates in the application process for allotting spectrum, which is believed to have given some bidders an unfair advantage. Rajesh Ahuja reports. Date with secrecy | Raja ignored PM's advice, complained against law ministerdelhi Updated: Nov 19, 2010 09:06 IST
At the centre of the 2G scam is the change of dates in the application process for allotting spectrum, which is believed to have given some bidders an unfair advantage.
HT has now learnt that decision was taken three months before and kept a secret by then telecom minister A Raja, so that a few select companies had enough time to get their papers, money and bank guarantee together. At the same time, other firms were kept in the dark.
The initial dates for submitting applications were between September 24 and October 1, 2007, and the department of telecommunications (DoT) sent out a press release saying as much on September 24.
But on January 10, 2008, it sent another release, which said that only those companies that had applied by September 25 would be eligible - even though the decision to change that date was taken three months in advance.
That the DoT had taken the decision to change the dates is evident from the correspondence between Raja and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Raja wrote to Singh on November 2, 2007 informing him that "the department has decided to continue with the existing policy (first-come-first-serve) for processing of applications received up to September 25, 2007".
It is clear that a favoured few gained from this because 13 applicants were ready with demand drafts drawn on dates prior to January 10, 2008 and some had even managed securing bank guarantees.
Now, the CBI is focusing on this aspect as it puts Raja directly under its scanner.
The comptroller and auditor general too also commented in its report that some applicants had advance information about the issuance of the January 10, 2008 press release by the DoT, enabling them to draw demand drafts and prepare other documents to comply with the letter of intent (LoI) conditions in spite of being given only about half a day.
According to sources, by advancing the cut-off date, the DoT in one stroke excluded 343 applicants who had applied after September 25, 2007. Only 232 applicants remained. Out of these, 121 were found eligible and issued LoIs on January 10, 2008.
And by keeping it a secret, Raja and his crony officers gave sufficient time to their favorite applicants to make arrangements to become successful applicants. It also ensured that the applicants who were excluded on the basis of the cut-off date didn't go to court and get a stay on the process.