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2G: Govt, BJP continue to spar

Saturday, 17 November 2012 - 9:00am IST | Place: New Delhi

Opposition says UPA celebrating failed auction; Govt responds by unveiling plan for another auction by March 31.

Ahead of the month-long winter session of parliament starting next week, the government and the principal opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Friday sparred on the failed spectrum auction. Both of them, however, agreed that poor economy had desisted companies to bid high.

Three ministers — finance minister P Chidambaram, telecom minister Kapil Sibal and minister of state for I&B Manish Tewari — exuded confidence of getting the net substantial gain of Rs25,000 crore to Rs30,000 crore from another auction before March.

BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar, however, said the government is to be blamed for destroying the whole economic momentum in the last five years with misrule and mismanagement.

The ministers said the Rs1.76 lakh crore loss scam ‘cooked up’ by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) was a ‘pure myth’.

Javadekar retorted that “this is perhaps the first government in the world celebrating its own defeat in the 2G auction not yielding the
desired revenue.”

Chidambaram, hit back, insisting that the government was not celebrating anything. “It’s telecom sector’s good story that got derailed. Yes today we are let down, but the auction has helped discover the market price. Given the current economic situation, the market decided the price. eGoM (empowered group of ministers) will meet shortly to review and decide further course of auction,” he said.

The nation got nothing from the propaganda of the so-called scam, said Sibal. Javadekar said the CAG estimate has been vindicated as the auction of 22 licences yielded Rs7,344 crore, which is Rs200 crore more than what the government had earned from 122 licences cancelled by the Supreme Court.

Sibal and Chidambaram, however, insisted that economic development does not mean to fill the government’s coffers but to empower the people.

On the Supreme Court directing regulator Trai to fix the auction price on the lines of the 3G spectrum auction that fetched big money to the government, Sibal said: “What use 3G roll out? Government got revenue, but the consumer gained nothing.”

He said he was unhappy at the 2G auction outcome “but had we been allowed to act, we would have taken the telecom sector forward. Had the government not lowered the floor price recommended by Trai, the result could have been still worse, he said.

Javadekar ridiculed the government for blaming CAG, Trai and indirectly the Supreme Court, other than self, regretting that unfortunately the government was attacking the constitutional bodies in and trying to make the CAG a multi-member body as a part of its conspiracy to cripple all watchdogs.

He said the CAG had estimated the loss in 2007 when the telecom sector was booming and not in 2012 when the government’s wrong policies have doomed the economy.
On the government had fetched Rs67,000 crore in the 3G auction as against its own expectations of Rs40,000 crore, Chidambaram said prices defer in different economic situations.

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