P Chidambaram(left) & Niira Radia (Right)
Former Telecom Minister A. Raja told corporate lobbyist Niira Radia in a telephone conversation which was intercepted by the government that Home Minister P. Chidambaram had “taken a lot of money and further expressed his annoyance on the functioning of Chidambaram on minerals and gas matters”. The conversation took place in May 2009, after the UPA returned to power in the Lok Sabha elections.
This forms part of the documents provided as “analysis” by the Central Bureau of Investigation recently to the Public Accounts Committee looking into the telecom scam. “CBI,” the reply states, “has not prepared transcripts of all call recordings of Ms Niira Radia. Income Tax Department was directed by the Supreme Court to prepare and provide the transcripts of the intercepted calls to CBI.”
“Accordingly, the IT department provided details of some relevant calls,” the reply states, adding that the “analysis” of the calls was enclosed.
The call analysis of the conversation between Ms Radia and Raja states, “Niira is discussing the election results with Raja and very happy with the performance of Congress.”
“They also discussed about the performance and results of other parties and politicians,” it states, adding that they discussed about Chidambaram and “wanted his defeat in the election.”
“Raja told Niira that Chidambaram has taken a lot of money and further expressed his annoyance on the functioning of Chidambaram on minerals and gas matters,” the analysis states.
The PAC, looking into spectrum allocation, in letter number 19/1/3/2010/PAC dated 11 March 2011 had asked the CBI to provide information in response to various questions arising from the scam. This included the “transcripts of the conversation between Ms Niira Radia on one hand and the journalists/ministries /politicians/corporate houses etc. on the other.”
Chidambaram has been facing heat since the PAC’s recent draft report unveiled a note he had written to the Prime Minister on 15 January 2008, shortly after the controversial licences were issued. According to the draft, as the then Finance Minister Chidambaram had asked the PM to treat the matter “as a closed chapter”. Following the revelations in the PAC report, Chidambaram had clarified that the note only deals with “spectrum usage charges” and “not the entry fee”, and that as Finance Minister, he was concerned with “raising revenues”.
However, Raja’s allegation raises questions about the context of the then Finance Minister’s controversial note. In his note to the PM in January 2008, Chidambaram had stated that “the most transparent method of allocating spectrum would be through auction”.
“The method of auction will face the least legal challenge. If Government is able to provide sufficient information on availability of spectrum, that would minimize the risks and, consequently, fetch better prices at the auction. The design of the auction should include a reserve price,” the note states.
“This leaves the question about licensees who already hold spectrum over and above the start up spectrum. In such cases, the past may be treated as a closed chapter and the payments made in the past for additional spectrum (over and above the start up spectrum) may be treated as the charges for spectrum for that period,” it states.
“However, prospectively, such licensee should pay for the additional spectrum that he holds, over and above the start up spectrum, at the price discovered in the auction. This will place old licensees, existing licensee seeking additional Spectrum and new licensees on par so far as Spectrum charges are concerned,” the note to the PM added.