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Gag disorder

Kapil Sibal wasn’t allowed to react to the 2G scam in Parliament. He had to speak somewhere.

india Updated: Feb 02, 2011 15:06 IST

Everyone has been speaking from their own soapboxes ever since the 2G spectrum issue came into the public domain. The public has looked on bemused, convinced in turn, by the arguments put forward by colourful speakers, telecom minister Kapil Sibal being one of them. Perhaps given his portfolio, it’s Mr Sibal’s arguments that have generated the most emotion. But as must be in a parliamentary democracy, we need to look beyond atmospherics.

The first stone in this imbroglio was the leak of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report on the alleged loss in the spectrum licensing in 2010. By November, it was in the Supreme Court. There is no question that such was the magnitude of the presumptive loss of R1.76 lakh crore mentioned in the leaked report that it was incumbent on the government to respond. The appropriate step would have been to debate it in Parliament and arrive at a probe mechanism.

Instead, the Opposition stalled the proceedings. The report was tabled on November 14, the day former telecom minister A Raja resigned. No amount of oratory could have obscured facts had the House been in session and both sides presented cogent arguments. In this light, there is some merit to the contention that Mr Sibal was forced to put forward the government’s point of view in the very public fora used by the Opposition to attack his government and its telecom policy.

The implementation of the telecom policy and any impropriety in it are under investigation. But we can only hope that these are allowed to reach their logical conclusion and the findings debated in Parliament. Hyde Park-style oratory is always captivating, especially when conducted through the media.

But the future of telecom has to be debated in the more sedate confines of Parliament. You can’t gag Mr Sibal by gagging Parliament and then throw a tantrum when he speaks on the 2G matter, having little alternative, at a public forum.