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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 858

Spectrum case: DMK backs Raja offer to depose before JPC, UPA jittery

From R. Vasudevan—Reporting from New Delhi
New Delhi, 25 February (Asiantribune.com):

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam will back former Telecom Minister A Raja if the issue of his request to appear before the Joint Parliamentary Committee as a witness on the 2G case is raised at the UPA Coordination Committee meeting in New delhi on Feb 26.

“If the Congress raises the issue..., asks us, we have to stand by Raja,” party spokesman T K Elangovan, MP, said when asked whether the issue could be raised by the DMK, a key constituent of the UPA, at the Coordination Committee meeting convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Besides, Elangovan said Mr. Raja request to appear before the JPC was a “new development” and “our leader may advise us” about future course of action.

The DMK spokesman said his party would raise the issue of Sri Lankan Tamils and farmers’ suicides in Tamil Nadu at the UPA coordination committee meeting.

DMK member of Lok Sabha, Raja is a prime accused in the 2G spectrum case who had been in Tihar jail for several months before being granted bail. He had met Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar some days back and handed her a letter expressing his willingness to appear as a witness before the JPC.

Raja has contended that while he has the “fullest respect” for the court, “the fact remains that I have been condemned unheard.” He has sent a copy of the letter to Congress leader P C Chacko, who heads the JPC.

Raja’s request to the Speaker comes days after Attorney General G E Vahanvati blamed him for various issues before the JPC.

“The truth of the matter is being suppressed on the basis of preconceived notions, deliberate bias, faulty investigation and erroneous conclusions. ...perhaps the most telling example of this situation is the judgement of the Hon’ble Supreme Court dated 02.02.2012, where specific and prejudicial observations were made against me without giving me a hearing,” Mr. Raja wrote in the letter.

Chacko is likely to get back to Raja with a final decision soon on the issue after consulting other committee members, JPC sources said.

Reports had it that Mr. Raja’s desire to testify before the JPC could be extremely damaging for the ruling UPA, as it fuels a controversy which the government is now trying to give a quiet burial after over two years of turbulent parliamentary, judicial and media scrutiny since November 2010.

Raja’s request has come when the three-month-long budget session has just commenced.

Congress has steered clear of the issue while an AIADMK has leader said it was a fight between DMK and Congress and his party would not get into it. With Parliament reconvening on Tuesday and the JPC scheduled to meet soon after, Raja’s demand could become a major rallying point for the BJP and Left parties.

What’s more troubling is that the “individuals” whose role Raja wishes to highlight as part of his own defence would potentially include Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, P. Chidambaram who was the Finance Minister even at the time of the scam, and President Pranab Mukherjee.

The PM in his statement to Parliament, and through a TV Editors conference in February 2011, has clarified that he acted based on decisions conveyed to him by Raja and Chidambaram as well as on the basis of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommendations and the Telecom Commission. But a trail of letters between Manmohan Singh and Raja shows that the decisions declared “illegal” by the Supreme Court were intimated in writing — and well in advance of the January 2008 scam perpetrated by Raja — directly to the PM himself.

Raja’s refusal to hold auctions and follow a first-come-first-served process as well as the decision to illegally advance the cut-off date from October 1 to September 25, 2007, was conveyed to the PM on November 2, 2007. When the PM recommended — through a letter on the same day — that Raja consider “transparent methodology of auction wherever legally and technically feasible” and “revision of entry fee which is currently benchmarked to old spectrum auction figures,” Raja refused. He promised the PM through a third letter on the same day — that there was “no single deviation from departure in rules and procedures contemplated in all the decisions taken by the Ministry.”

Raja wrote to the PM again on December 26, 2007 — two weeks before perpetrating the 2G scam — informing him that he was planning to act imminently while modifying the definition of the first-come-first-served process. The letter detailed the modification of the existing priority linked to “date of application” to one based on “date of compliance with Letters of Intent” and claimed this decision came after his meeting with Pranab Mukherjee and “has been concurred [to] by the Solicitor General of India during the discussions.” Essentially, Raja’s defence rests on the fact that he took decisions after informing the PM, discussing it with senior Cabinet colleagues and after concurrence of the second senior-most law officer of the government.

As for Chidambaram, who has received a clean chit from the Supreme Court, multiple pieces of contradictory evidence exist, including government press releases describing his role, as well as the PM’s own statement in Parliament and to the press.

Incidentally, the JPC is under no obligation to restrict its questioning or conclusions based on the Supreme Court judgment — which offered a reprieve to Mr. Chidambaram. Additionally, a large number of new documents — memos within the Finance Ministry including one dated December 17, 2007 directly relating to the 2G scam — have neither been exposed nor formed the basis of evidence in the Supreme Court. However, these are available to the JPC.

- Asian Tribune -

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