Friday, December 10, 2010

Ratan Tata : Telecom policy flip flops during BJP regime

The 2G scam on Thursday triggered a corporate war with industrialist Ratan Tata hitting out at the policies of the BJP-led NDA govt and Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who had alleged that Tatas were one of the biggest beneficiaries of the spectrum allocation.

Accusing certain GSM operators, represented by Cellular Operators Association of India, and journalists of trying to subvert policies to suit their interests, Tata said many of the flip-flops in the telecom policy occurred during the BJP regime.

Stating that the telecom licence policy of 2008 helped break the powerful cartel, Tata demanded that 2G spectrum allocation since 2001, a period that includes the BJP-led NDA regime, be probed.

Reacting to an open letter by Chandrasekhar, a former president of COAI and an independent MP supported by BJP-JD(S), Tata said the recent policy (2G spectrum allocation in 2008) broke the powerful cartel that had been holding back competition and delaying implementation of policies.

It was in 2008 that Tata's telecom arm, TTSL - a key player in CDMA space entered the GSM platform dominated by big names like Airtel and Vodafone.

Rebutting the charges, Chandrasekhar, an erstwhile telecom entrepreneur, hit back, saying that Tata was trying to divert the issue which is the gap between the group's claim on probity and conduct of their telecom venture TTSL.

He alleged that Tata was one of the biggest beneficiaries of spectrum policies, contrary to all their claims of fair play and transparency.

Amid the trading of charges between corporate executives and leading telecom players, the government today announced setting up of a one-man panel to look into the spectrum allocation procedures and policies between 2001-2009, a period that includes NDA regime.

The government decision to set up the inquiry by retired SC judge Shivraj Patil comes a day after the Supreme Court asked the government to widen the ambit of CBI probe into the 2G spectrum scam to cover the NDA regime when first-come first-served policy was first introduced.

Tata's charge that "many of the flip-flops in the telecom policy occurred during the BJP regime," drew sharp reaction from the BJP which said the industrialist was "no judge" and his views will not be given much importance as he himself was a "beneficiary" of UPA's telecom policy.

Tata alleged that the switch over from auction to revenue sharing system for telecom operators during the BJP regime could have caused a loss of Rs 50,000 crore going by the parameters adopted by government auditor CAG on 2G spectrum allocation.

On Chandrasekhar's allegation that group company Tata Teleservices (TTSL) was a beneficiary of out-of-turn allocation of spectrum, Tata said that the true position is that TTSL has not, "I repeat not" been advantaged in any way by Raja or any earlier Minister.

Using Tata's statement, Congress attacked the BJP saying it was shying from a debate on 2G spectrum issue as its top leadership was involved in taking "wrong" decisions when NDA was in power which led to a loss of Rs 60,000 crore to the government.

"Is it not a fact that in July 1999 immediately after the Kargil war the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee took the Communication portfolio from Jagmohan and helped the Telecom companies which resulted in loss of Rs 60,000 crores to the country," party spokesperson Manish Tewari said.

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