War in UPA: Pranab suggests Chidambaram could have stopped Raja

FP

Almost two months after the CBI arrested former telecom minister A Raja along with two officials for their alleged role in the 2G scam, the Ministry of Finance sent a 10-page note to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) saying that had the ministry — then under P Chidambaram — "stuck to the stand of auctioning the 4.4 MHz spectrum", the DoT (Department of Telecom) could have cancelled the licences.

The letter, sent to Vini Mahajan, joint secretary in the PMO, on March 25, 2011, is signed by the finance ministry's deputy director (Infrastructure and Investment Division) P G S Rao. It says that "the note has been seen by the Finance Minister" (Pranab Mukherjee).

It says that in a meeting on January 30, 2008, between the then ministers of finance and telecommunications (Chidambaram and Raja), it was noted by the then finance minister that he was "for now not seeking to revisit the current regimes for entry fee or revenue share".

It adds that when the issue of pricing of new telecom licences was being decided, the then finance ministry "implicitly agreed to the imposition of same entry fee as that prevailing in 2001 for licences allotted upto December 31, 2008".

The CBI's main charge against Raja is that he caused a huge loss to the exchequer when he decided against taking the auction route to sell 2G spectrum to companies, some of which were allegedly ineligible to get the same. One of the key points of Raja's defence is that he had always kept

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram in the loop before taking all decisions with regard to allocation of 2G spectrum.

When contacted by The Indian Express, Chidambaram declined to comment. But officials who worked with Chidambaram in the finance ministry said that even until a week before he moved out of the finance ministry, Chidambaram had stuck to the position on record that the 2001 entry fee of Rs 1,651 crore should be reviewed.

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