Karela Fry

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2G headlines again

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The newspapers have been full of headlines with question marks: is P. Chidambaram, the ex-finance minister involved in India’s biggest scam? The Kolkata Telegraph puts the rumours and headlines into perspective:

Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy today produced a purported note from the finance ministry to suggest that fingers were being pointed at P. Chidambaram from within the government itself as recently as this March in the telecom scandal.

The contents of the note largely fall into the category of “hindsight wisdom”, claiming spectrum could have been allotted through auction — instead of the first-come-first-served policy that was followed in 2008 — had Chidambaram, the then finance minister, insisted so.

The note suggests that Chidambaram’s ministry “implicitly agreed” to retain the fee in 2008 at the 2001 level — something the government has sought to justify by underscoring the need to remove entry barriers and break monopolies.

But the time of the note’s despatch to the PMO — March this year when the UPA was battling charges of scam after scam — has swivelled the spotlight back to what is being viewed as a tug of war between Pranab Mukherjee, who runs finance now, and Chidambaram, who helmed the ministry when 2G licences were given out in 2008 and now heads the home ministry.

The revelation of the latest salvo comes against the backdrop of a whisper campaign and counter-thrust that appeared to lock the finance ministry and the home ministry in an undeclared tussle aimed at undermining each other. The charges — some of them were probed and officially dismissed as unsubstantiated — ranged from attempts to bug the finance minister’s office to alleged favouritism linked to a particular officer in the ministry.

This is back-room politics at its most visible. But the note is pretty detailed, as the rest of the above report goes on to reveal. Is there substance behind it? We will have to wait to find out, if this report in ET can be taken at face value:

CBI has told the Supreme Court that its autonomy will be adversely affected if the apex court entertains the plea of Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy, seeking direction to the agency to investigate the alleged role of then Finance Minister P Chidambaram in the 2G spectrum allocation scam.

“Even the CVC is barred from directing CBI the manner in which investigations were to be carried out. The Supreme Court will help CBI keep its autonomy by not directing the agency to investigate a particular person,” CBI counsel KK Venugopal argued before a bench comprising Justice GS Singhvi and Justice AK Ganguly on Wednesday.

The CBI functioned autonomously under the supervision of Central Vigilance Commission which is precluded from interfering in the agency’s course of investigations. The entire investigations into 2G spectrum scam is being monitored by the apex court to keep CBI on the right track. At one point of time, the court itself had appreciated the investigations being carried on by the agency, said Venugopal.

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