Opposition using Raja comment to tarnish government: Sibal

July 25th, 2011 - 6:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, July 25 (IANS) Communications Minister Kapil Sibal Monday said the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was spreading false propaganda against the government, using some comments on the second generation (2G) spectrum scam made in court by his predecessor A. Raja.

He said it was also a ploy to deflect the crisis that the main opposition was faced with in Karnataka, where it is ruling, over illegal mining in the state as alleged by the state’s Lokayukta Santosh Hegde.

Reacting to jailed former telecom minister A. Raja’s statement in the court Monday that decisions on 2G spectrum in 2007-08 were taken in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sibal said a distinction must be made between sale of assets and issue of fresh equity.

Nine new telecom companies in 2007 were issued licences and radio frequency airwaves, a scarce national resource, to operate second generation (2G) mobile phone services in the country. As many as 122 circle-wise licences were issued.

Sibal said among them Swan Telecom and Unitech had only issued fresh equity to foreign partners, and had neither divested their stakes nor sold spectrum, which was in line with the policy framed by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) governmernt in 1999.

Swan Telecom had bought licences for 13 circles with the necessary spectrum for $340 million but managed to sell a 45-percent stake in the company to the UAE’s Etisalat for $900 million. This swelled its valuation to $2 billion without a single subscriber.

Similarly, another new player, Unitech, paid $365 million as licence fee but sold a 60 percent stake to Norway’s Telenor for $1.36 billion, taking its valuation to nearly $2 billion, again without a single subscriber.

Sibal, however, said both these transactions were not ultra vires the existing norms.

“This kind of politics where you take an accused’s defense in court as proof and then ask for the resignation of the prime minister or finance minister — I think, this is not only incorrect, but also irresponsible,” said Sibal.

BJP president Nitin Gadkari, he said, was being hypocritical as the spectrum policy was framed during the time his party led the ruling coalition in 1999 and 2003 and that the Congress-led government had followed the same guidelines.

“Today the BJP is alleging dilution of equity amounts to sale. I am really sorry that a responsible party like the BJP and its president should make a public statement to this effect,” Sibal said.

He said the regulations in 1999 called for a lock-in period of five years on equity held by promoters. But in any case, induction of fresh equity was not barred. The second NDA regime was the one which removed the lock-in period.

He said it was the the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that re-introduced lock-in for three years, again with the past practice not to prohibit additional issue of shares to hekp build capital.

Sibal even sought to put the ball back in the BJP’s court, referring to the developments in Karnataka where Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa was facing a crisis of sorts over graft charges.

“What morality is BJP talking about. It should look in the mirror and ask what it is doing in Karnataka. I am convinced it won’t do anything. Whatever corruption charges came to the fore under BJP regimes, they never act against it.”

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