Missing note haunts PMO
By Santwana Bhattacharya - NEW DELHI
Published: 21st Oct 2012 09:11:04 AM
The UPA government is in a fix to explain the trajectory of the missing note that former Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrashekhar wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on December 4, 2007 on allottment of 2G spectrum licences. In it, he had suggested an entry fee for the licences that would have made the government richer by Rs 36,000 crore against the less than Rs 10,000 crore it eventually earned. This note was written just a month-and-a-week before the alleged 2G spectrum allocation irregularities took place.
All documents regarding the 2G scam were sent to the CBI and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which denies receiving the mysterious note. A senior member of the PAC, headed by BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi, which looked into the CAG report on the 2G spectrum told The Sunday Standard that “the government had not shared the said note with the PAC—this is a complete new document that has come to light which takes the focus back to PM/PMO.”
Ever since Chandrashekhar made the disclosure on the ‘hitherto unknown’ note before the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), both the government and the Congress have been tying themselves in knots to explain: Why the Prime Minister settled for a much lesser entry fee of Rs 1,651 crore, when the topmost bureaucrat of the country had suggested a much higher revenue model. What is curious is that the government, which includes the Prime Minister’s Office, is tight-lipped about what exactly happened to the note after the Cabinet Secretary submitted it to the Prime Minister. No one in the government is willing to comment on whether it was forwarded to the concerned ministry/ministries or kept wraps.
While disclosing the note, Chandrashekhar had told the JPC members in an in-camera proceeding that he had made the note after being asked by the Prime Minister to prepare an alternative revenue model factoring in the TRAI ruling. On being asked why the PM never acted on his note or why it was never mentioned in any of discussions or given to the JPC, Chandrashekhar told the parliamentary panel that as the Cabinet Secretary he was in no position to ask the PM on what happened to the note.
Strangely, on all the timelines prepared by the government (then Finance Minster Pranab Mukherjee’s note) and outside agencies of the controversial 2G spectrum allocation and alleged irregularities, Chandrashekharan’s note has never been mentioned. It never surfaced in the last four years that the PM was flagged off by his Cabinet Secretary—that too on his own bidding—that a high revenue model could be worked out. In fact, at the height of the 2G spectrum scandal, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had explained that it were the concerned ministries—Finance and Telecom—that took the decision on 2G allocation, factoring in the policy prerogatives of providing a level-playing ground, cost-to-consumer model and the TRAI ruling on the second generation spectrum allocation; and he simply went along, as per the 2003 Cabinet transaction note on 2G spectrum.
JPC Chairman PC Chacko took a defensive position instead, and blamed the media for “misreporting’’ the former Cabinet Secretary’s deposition before the JPC. Chandrashekhar “never said that Rs 36,000 crore was the entry fee for a pan-India licence”. On being asked about the mystery of the missing note, JPC member Manish Tewari said, “Many figures were floating around at that time, and Rs 36,000 crore was of them, and perhaps it was lost in the academic exercise”.