This one will be hard for Murli Manohar Joshi to explain. Now the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that is scrutinising the notional loss in the 2G scam case, the senior BJP leader had four years ago done something that now seems may backfire.
Joshi had, in December 2007, as head of the Standing Committee on Commerce, written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, urging “against auctioning of spectrum”. A letter sent by him noted that auctioning would encourage hoarding and cartelisation, which would be detrimental to government-run MTNL and BSNL.
Today, the ruling Congress, citing this missive, said the party found it “surprising” that Joshi, now as PAC chairman, and his party, the BJP, were making grandiose statements over non-auction of the 2008 spectrum allocation.
Joshi had on December 2, 2007, written to the PM that there was talk of private operators prevailing upon the telecom department to auction spectrum. Warning against auctioning , Joshi wrote “…. which means that there could be hoarding and cartelisation to the detriment of MTNL and BSNL”, according to the letter, a copy of which is with Business Standard.
He proposed that “to ensure a level playing field”, there should be a “licensing policy which earns revenue for the government, unearths the excess spectrum being used without meeting social obligations”, “protects PSU interests” and allows “allocation under a technology-neutral license”.
With the intention of embarrassing the BJP, Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi, citing this letter, said it was surprising that ,BJP said “something else while a senior leader of his ,party, who currently heads PAC examining the 2G issue, had said something else earlier.”
Joshi had, in his letter, also stated that MNCs and private operators in the telecom sector were dead against the allocation of spectrum to PSUs like BSNL and MTNL by the government. Therefore they wanted spectrum to be auctioned, he stated.
Now 77, Joshi has, as head of the PAC, often been accused by the Congress of functioning more as a BJP representative than as the PAC’s head.
The last committee meeting, where R P Singh -- lead auditor of the 2G spectrum allocation -- was scheduled to depose before the committee, was disrupted after Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam demanded that Comptroller and Auditor General Vinod Rai could not be present during Singh’s deposition, as he had contested the quantum of loss arrived at by the country’s apex auditor.