Saturday, December 11, 2010

Nobody fears SONIA GANDHI

Source: rediff
Arun Shourie feels the government has reached the tipping point
In part one of this interview, Arun Shourie, former newspaper editor, twice member of the Rajya Sabha, former Union minister, right-wing thinker and author, explained the minefield of the 2G spectrum scam and the Niira Radia tapes. Part I: 'BJP and Congress are one party'
In the concluding part of the interview with's Sheela Bhatt , he explains why Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh are losing control over the government and the Congress party.
One of the issues revealed in one of the Radia tapes is that you were not given a chance to speak on a Budget-related issue in Parliament.
In her conversation with N K Singh, a former bureaucrat and now a Janata Dal-United MP, she says she didn't want you to be given a chance to speak by the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party).
Did you discover the alleged pressure on your party from the tapes or did you know about it before?
Do you think corporate people can influence the BJP?
Why don't you listen to the tape? I was astonished when I reached Parliament that day. But what can you do? I didn't know that such pressure had worked.
I don't blame the corporates as much as the political process and then these lies are being put out (in defence by the BJP).
And my friend N K Singh says this was a social chat. Arre, look at your tone. You are talking for nine minutes to Radia. Out of that for five minutes he speaks on how he was successful in subverting the BJP's speakers in the debate on the Budget.
N K Singh now says he rejected the proposal that favoured Mukesh Ambani's Reliance when he was revenue secretary.
How interesting! Then what about the tape? This concession (to Reliance's gas project) was made by (Union Finance Minister) Pranab Mukherjee.
A revenue secretary, who has written some clarification, overruled this concession. (N K Singh says on the tape) 'We have to get it restored, otherwise we are nowhere. The initiative they have taken will go nowhere.'
Therefore, Arun Shourie who has taken the difficult position in the BJP's party meeting, has to be managed, he says. He then says, we have got Venkaiah Naidu to speak first.
Somebody has analysed Venkaiah Naidu's speech, in which the sentence is there (supporting Reliance) that all these tax concessions must be continued and given for the gas infrastructure. Where is the doubt?

That's why you are saying that the BJP and Congress are the same.

From all sorts of circumstances. Why is the investigation into the IPL (Indian Premier League) not being pursued? Because you find the same group (the Congress and the BJP) is everywhere.

It is now only the pretence of the government and the Opposition. Actually, they are the same.
Unless, the people of India wake up these things will go on. No issue will reach its conclusion. This is cancer. This is not a scandal.

Have you seen a detailed debate on Indian defence, on the dangers that India is facing from China?

When I was writing on it three years, five years and even ten years ago about China they would say 'paranoia'! I wrote on Islamic terrorism, about Pakistan.

Have you seen anybody taking up these issues in New Delhi? Television will debate the issue to find out who is responsible.

Someone says Nehru, some will say Indira Gandhi, some will blame (P V) Narasimha Rao or Manmohan Singh. The debate is over and now let's go and see Shilpa Shetty!
That's the problem! Just drama that is going on and on. Inside Parliament, it is arranged drama.
  You have heard the 100 plus Radia tapes uploaded on the Outlook Web site. It gives us an insight into India 2010. It's a very important insight. That's why I am urging people please, please listen to it. I am urging people to please publish verbatim.
Please bring out books. Please bring out CDs and reproduce it. So, that people would know how things are managed in government, in the Opposition and in the media.
How polices are being made, how personnel are being fixed. It's a wonderful glimpse. We owe a great degree of thanks to Niira Radia, and, to the persons who recorded these calls and to the person who leaked it.
And, a very important point: These tapes also show the power of the Internet.
Apart from Open and Outlook, the whole print media blacked it out, but Internet users had perseverance. The Hindu has taken it up now. Individual journalists like Girish Nikam and others are pursuing it. Now, the tapes have got some focus.
What has surprised you in Radia's conversations?
Nothing has surprised me. This is what I have been saying since long is the state of affairs. That is now confirmed by these tapes.
This is not the state of affairs of India. The Radia tapes reveal the state of affairs in New Delhi.
When you were a journalist and a top editor, you shifted to politics.
In those years when you were moving from media to politics, obviously, even your phone call would suggest that you crossed that red line. Don't you think so?

I don't think so. You can tap my phone, anytime. What red lines? I consider myself a writer.
When I was in government everybody said I am not a politician. That's true. I am not a politician. I don't think my behaviour with my contact would be different than my writing.
If you ask me today, 'Do you know Radia?' Yes, I met her once. What is there to hide?

Did you ever think that Radia would be so powerful?

I thought she was an articulate lady. I never thought that she knows everybody -- very effective in her job. We can't blame her.

What's the solution for the Indian media?

First, the media should write about itself. It is extremely short-sighted about the media to black out these things. The Mitrokhin Archives (external link) revealed how (the then Soviet intelligence agency) the KGB boasted that they were able to plant 400 stories in such and such Indian newspapers.
The Indian media blacked it out. Then, (external link) of The Times of India that other people have now adopted has been completely blacked out.
Only two, three journalists are exposing it on the Internet. Again, on the issue of paid news, only P Sainath of The Hindu wrote about it.
When the Press Council of India was forced to appoint a committee to look into the allegations about 'paid news', the Press Council itself suppressed the report.
These Radia tapes should be a gold mine for Indian media to show how things work in New Delhi. The whole issue has come down to Vir Sanghvi and Barkha Dutt. That is not the whole issue.
The arguments forwarded by many media outlets is that the source of the Radia tapes is not known and nobody is sure if they are doctored or not.

That's just the dammed rationalisation. Has any single person disputed the voices on the Radia tapes? No. Has anybody been able to prove that tapes have been edited? No.

Barkha Dutt has written to that effect.

She has written, but what else did you talk about? Is that not clear enough? We can't go by the rationalisation that has been offered.

Another issue that has cropped up relates to privacy.

How many private things in Indian journalism has not been disclosed? Every second day the Indian media is disclosing people's private matters. Only in this matter are they sanctimonious about the Right to Privacy.
Do you think Ratan Tata is right when he says that?

It's a separate matter. The distinction has to be there between private talk and the matter that has impact on public policy that is not covered by the Right to Privacy law. I don't think even Ratan Tata has asked to that effect.

He only says that his private conversation with Radia that relates to personal things should not be leaked. There are personal things like what kind of food he likes etc. But, why should the tapes of his conversations, which are in the public domain, not be heard?

Take the case of WikiLeaks. Is the Indian media reporting or not?
Are they verifying the authenticity of the source? Are they contacting the persons concerned? Are they checking if these cables are edited or not? No.

Yet, they are carrying it. These are arguments manufactured for shutting your eyes.
Do you think the (EM>United Progressive Alliance UPA-2 is increasingly losing its sheen?

The cancer is now in the fourth stage in our governance structure.
It has reached what (writer Malcolm) Gladwell has called the tipping point.
I feel the prime minister has lost complete control of the government. Sonia Gandhi has lost control over the political processes and of the Congress party.
Nobody fears her. Till now, she was the supreme court. The way Congressman feared her, they don't fear her now.
That is why you see how she took time to take action in Andhra, Maharashtra and corruption in the Commonwealth Games. They kept saying the government is not doing anything on the CWG.

There was an sms doing the rounds where someone asked why the government did not act when the country was getting such a bad name? The answer was that nobody told the prime minister that the Games are going on!
Similar is the case of Sonia Gandhi. She has unlimited authority within the Congress, and therefore in the government.
When the country's name was jeopardised, if not the prime minister, she should have acted. Both have lost authority in their respective space.

In May 2009 everything was looking so hopeful and good for the Congress party. Why this transformation?

Because of the tipping point. Things go wrong inside the body and we don't realise.
Second, I have seen during Rajiv Gandhi's time that the prime minister and rulers are often misled by the fact that they control the situation within Parliament. But they don't realise that the situation outside Parliament is going out of their hands.

This is what happened to Rajiv Gandhi. He had three-quarters majority in the House. He thought he controlled everything. He was in control, but things outside Parliament slipped out of his hands. The same things are repeating today.

They must be thinking that we have won. We have managed other smaller parties. The Opposition party is our pocket borough! We have managed them. They were confident of them. Call them for dinner and praise them a little bit in public.
People can be driven by flattery; you don't even need to give them money.

Some small fry could be praised in public. They became instruments in the hands of the government. The government felt cosy in that position. Suddenly things went out of hand.
Do you agree with the BJP's demand for a JPC (Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the 2G spectrum scam?

The JPC will derail the investigation. The government will get a perfect alibi for two years that the probe would go on.
There were JPCs on Harshad Mehta, Ketan Parekh, insecticides. What happened to them?
If a JPC is formed, then the issue of 2G spectrum will be killed. The CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation is now doing the job.

A Raja is out and there are many indications that they are pursuing the matter. I know from personal knowledge that the CBI has got details of the transactions involving many, many telecom players and Raja.
The best way is for the CBI's investigation to be monitored by the Supreme Court.

There is the petition to that effect by advocate Prashant Bhushan. He says it should be monitored by independent people. I think it should be monitored by Chief Justice S H Kapadia in whom we have faith.

The CBI itself has said the investigation will be over by March. We should wait till then.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

'BJP and Congress are one party' : Arun Shourie

Source: Rediff

Arun Shourie discusses the real meaning of the Radia tapes with's Sheela Bhatt Arun Shourie Arun Shourie is a former newspaper editor, twice a member of the Rajya Sabha, a former Union minister, right-wing thinker and author of 25 books.
He is currently working on this 26th book at the Lavasa complex near Pune, an attempt to understand human suffering through various religions.
Despite the spiritual thrust of his latest book, Shourie, 69, keeps a sharp eye on New Delhi [ Images ].
Here he takes readers through the minefields of the 2G spectrum scam and the Niira Radia tapes and explains how the political milieu in New Delhi has reached the tipping point.
The first of a two-part conversation:
How can we make sense of what is happening in New Delhi after the expose of the 2G spectrum scandal and the release of the Niira Radia tapes?
What's the bigger message that comes out of Radia's conversations?
This shows the extent of corporate penetration into government, into the media and into details of policy making.
The main point that emerges from the tapes is the level of corporate penetration. These tapes have shown that everybody is now linked to everybody else.
Democracy survives on counter-rallying power. It survives when there are alternate sources of authority. But now those have joined hands. There is, what my friend (Union Urban Development Minister S) Jaipal Reddy has once called, an invisible government of India [ Images ] which is completely stable.
The visible Government of India keeps changing, but that invisible government of India remains completely stable.
That is the real danger because now the Opposition is no different from the ruling party, whichever is the ruling party. The influence of those puppeteers behind the scene works on both sides. As a result, no issue is pursued to conclusion.
Is the 2G issue a new one? No. It is two years old. I know how I have taken documents to editors, to senior people in government. How can it be that only one reporter in one newspaper The Pioneer was following it? He was not withholding information, but not one newspaper or television channel touched it.
Today also the reportage is about what (former telecom minister) A Raja says, what Arun Shourie says. Is that the end of the story? I hardly read newspapers now. I just don't watch television. There is nothing to be learnt.
Why are journalists going for sound bytes? Why don't they take the documents home, study it and come to their own conclusions? I can't understand.
I feel completely distanced from this profession (journalism) and, of course, politicians. They are in bed with each other and with everybody.
Don't you think the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party [ Images ]) also has a lot to answer for in the current situation?
I don't see the difference between the two. I feel they (the BJP and the Congress) are one party. They are jointly ruling. It is a dinner party. They meet at dinners. They meet socially. They decide on what has to be done about issues.
It is all very cooperative behaviour. They (the BJP) are shouting (for a Joint Parliamentary Committee). They know that it will kill the investigation.
A JPC will raise side issues and that is what both sides want. Because the corporates behind both sides are the same. They don't want the 2G spectrum investigation to proceed.
If you see the bigger picture of 2G spectrum, it is a battle between the old operators and the new operators in telecom...
But that's the separate issue...
It was during the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government led by the BJP that (then Union minister) Ananth Kumar introduced Niira Radia to the New Delhi set-up.
Yes, that's one point. I remember there was a report in that regard in the Indian Express which had an eight column front-page story just below the masthead. The story was about Ananth Kumar and Niira Radia's association with each other. I don't recollect if Annath Kumar was then the civil aviation or tourism minister.
I was astonished to read that such person has been named in the report. I was told by a very senior official about the observations made by some agency. He was in a position to know about the minister. He told me that the report about Ananth Kumar and Radia's association is correct and that is why no action was taken against the published report.
See, issues are not taken up in New Delhi by anybody. The political parties and corporates have complete liaison with the media. Its not just Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi, it is the whole lot involved with each other.
That's why political parties are not taking up the issue of the Radia tapes. The cpi-m (Communist Party of India-Marxist) shouted about the tapes, but the next day the story came that West Bengal [ Images ] Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya [ Images ] was dealing with Radia for the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation.
Now can the CPI-M [ Images ] shout 'crony capitalism' in the same way?
The problem is the homogenisation of India's political parties. All are becoming clones of each other. That means there is no counter-wheeling power any longer in the country.
Do you accept the argument of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's [ Images ] supporters and Congress leaders that there are limitations to a coalition government?
Also, a Congress leader claimed that you can't ask the government to abdicate the duty to govern by taking action under pressure.
Why have they taken action now? Has the coalition fallen? No. These arguments are not right.
The prime minister of India has unlimited power. Our system is so structured that the PM knows everything.
Yashwant Sinha [ Images ], when he was finance minister, told me an incident. He got a message from a leader of the state that s/he wanted to see him. He asked Prime Minister (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee if he could can meet that person. Vajpayee said he could meet her/him.
When Sinha went to the state he met the particular leader without anyone knowing about it. He had lunch and talked about all sorts of things. At the end of it, the leader gave him an envelope. He kept it in his pocket. He came to New Delhi and only then opened it.
It was a legal brief on why cases against that leader should not be pursued by the Enforcement Directorate. He put the envelope in his drawer and did nothing about it. He forgot the case.
Several days later he met Vajpayee and spoke about his meeting with the state leader. Vajpayee listened quietly and kept looking at him. At the end of the meeting he asked Sinha, 'Aur woh lifafa (what about the envelope)?'
Sinha was astonished since he had told no one about the meeting and he did not act on what was requested.
Unless the prime minister deliberately shuts his eyes there is no difficulty in knowing everything. It would be incredible that the prime minister would not know. The system is so structured.
Second, all the telecom dealings were done in public. The Prime Minister's Office would certainly read the newspapers. There was so much commotion in Sanchar Bhuvan that people were beaten up the day the allotment of 2G spectrum was announced.
The point is that the prime minister himself wrote a letter and as politely as possible gave instructions that please examine the issue of auctioning of spectrum and determining its price in a fair and transparent manner.
And his minister disregards that.
Do you think that the PM would not know that?
It was the letter signed by him that was ignored.
Coalition dharma doesn't mean that I will become protector of the corrupt.
I feel the prime minister must have known about the 2G issue. That's evident from all sorts of facts.
Second, coalition compulsions do not give you the licence to abdicate your duty.
If your minister is doing something wrong, as captain of the team, the prime minister owes the responsibility to the country to stop the minister.
If the PM had confronted (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam [ Images ] chief M) Karunanidhi with all the evidence, I don't imagine he would have told the PM, 'Don't take action against Raja'.
It is possible that the Congress party must have prevailed over the PMO in that matter.
I don't know. I have heard the opposite. Six months ago, the Congress party had told the prime minister that you remove Raja and it is your responsibility to explain this matter to Karunanidhi. That is what senior leaders of the party have been saying.
I don't know the inner party politics of the Congress. But your point of view or mine is immaterial.
The material fact is that nothing was done. People are asking, 'Raja ke khilaf karwai kyon nahi ki? (Why was action not taken against Raja?)'

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Demand for a JPC into 2G is not right. There was a JPC on Bofors, what happened? ARUN SHOURIE

Demand for a JPC into 2G is not right. There was a JPC on Bofors, what happened?

ARUN SHOURIE BJP leader and former telecom minister

Source: Indian Express

In this Walk the Talk on NDTV 24x7 with The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta, Arun Shourie, telecom minister in the NDA government, takes on A Raja for saying he was only following the first-come-first-served policy of granting licences that was laid down by his predecessors ALL OF us wish that the Prime Minister would exercise his authority more.

Otherwise what is happening is what happened in Raja's case, that under the umbrella of the Prime Minister's good name, all this dacoity was going on. It is not a service to the country for a good person to be merely a good person in his own right

My guest this week is somebody who I say with great pride that I followed in the footsteps of, Mr Arun Shourie. But it seems that you are in tricky company because A Raja also says that he followed in your footsteps as telecom minister.

This kind of nonsense that (Raja) was peddling--that he was only continuing the principles and procedures that we had laid down-this has certainly not washed with the Prime Minister.

Or with the CBI or CAG.

It is also very curious that on the one hand you force him to resign, saying he has done wrong. On the other, you say he is only following procedures. But I have faith that if the media is strong, the courts are strong, one way or the other the truth will come out, as it has come out in this case.

What is the truth in this case?

Was he following in your footsteps or not? And what were your footsteps?

I will give you one instance. He says I followed the first-come-firstserved procedure and he did the same thing and the media is saying the same thing. The fact of the matter is that he did not follow the first-come-first-served method. All this controversy relates to Sep tember-October 2007. In August 2007, there were 167 applications lying in the telecom department and he was not allowing them to be processed, saying the spectrum is short. And then suddenly, he contacts the real estate companies that he was dealing with while he was in the environment ministry (he was environment minister in UPA-I) and tells them, `We are opening shop here. You come and take licences.' They apply. Suddenly he now has spectrum. He announces he will give licence on first-come-first-served basis by the date and time of application re ceived--by October 1, 2007. Ap plications come. Suddenly he says no. I will have the cut-off date not on October 1 but September 25. So everybody who applies in be tween is cut out, without any rea son, without any scrutiny. This is what (D S) Mathur, the secretary, objected to. Then he suddenly changed the basis of first-come first-served. First it was time and date of application. Then he says the time and date at which the con ditions specified in the letter of intent will be fulfilled. This is changed, and one of the condi tions is, as the CAG says, in 41 minutes, bring banker's drafts. It's a press note issued at 2.45 p.m. that by 3.30 p.m., bring a banker's draft of Rs 1,650 crore.

I must say Indian banking system has become very efficient! Electronic. Not only that. It so happens that some firms already have the banker's drafts precisely for that time and it is dated well before the change of conditions that was announced. And the representatives of two of the firms are sitting in the office of Raja's personal assistant. They are not at the central registry where these are to be given. So, suddenly these licences are given. Even this change is not notified till January 2008. All this is happening in October. Then there are conditions which are laid down. Now the CAG has found that of the 122 licences that were given, in the case of 85 licences, those companies did not fulfill the conditions that had been laid down--that is first come, first served. Not only that, it then happened that (Raja) still did not get the type of spectrum allocated to Swan, which he wanted to do, which is one of the favoured companies. So he changes the priority list into lucrative circles--Punjab and Maharashtra--that is first come, first served. One change after the other so as to steer the licences entirely to the companies he was favouring.

Do you get a sense that the CBI knows exactly what has happened?

I have no doubt about it because in some cases the very officers who were handling the material, who were handling these manipulations, have testified to the CBI.

That is to my personal knowledge, because the officers have told me what they have told the CBI. And if I may so, I have conveyed this even before, from the CBI to the higher persons in the gov ernment. Nothing happened.

This govern ment?

The UPA govern ment. The CBI, therefore, knows to such an extent that the officer sir, these compa has said, `Yes sir, these companies' representatives would bring the note which he should sign on a pen drive. It would be put into my computer, a print taken and Raja would sign it.' This detail the CBI knows. CBI knows the identity of the front companies that were used.

The front companies were used to get licences or transfer bribes?

Licences, of course, are well known.

And front companies for money transactions?

Yes, transactions.

Bribe transactions?

I would have no doubt otherwise; you are not doing charity here.

The CBI knows the identity of the critical person who handled the money and it is a mystery to the other officers as to why that particular officer has not been questioned to this day.

He has still not been questioned?

He has still not been questioned.

And if they talk to him now, he might tell them the truth?

I think so. These people are quite ambitious themselves. They just don't do things for their masters.

The CBI's thing is that we have to take the government's permission because he is of such and such rank. But what is the problem?

You go and take the permission and if the government refuses, then that itself will prove the point.

So would you think that if CBI were to ask for permission to go and prosecute this particular officer or officers of that rank, the government wouldn't even dare to deny them permission?

I don't think so. I don't think it's a question of daring. I think now it's a question of slight anger also.

The government is angry?

I think so. I will tell you why.

What happened was there were fisticuffs in Sanchar Bhavan, because these applications had to be given to the Central Registry. To keep the others from giving the applications, musclemen were employed and they were beaten up and there was a lot of scuffle. That very day, the Prime Minister writes to Raja, saying adopt these proce dures and so on and in the end he says, `please examine the question of auctioning the spectrum and determining its price in a fair and transparent manner'.

The Prime Minister himself writes to him?

Yes, he himself writes to him. And what does Raja do? In a letter drafted by a person whom the CBI knows about--Raja can't draft that letter--Raja then implicates Pranab Mukherjee in the thing that `I have kept honourable senior minister Pranab Mukherjee fully informed'. So naturally Mr Pranab Mukherjee would have been incensed.

But Mr Pranab Mukherjee is not a fool. He is a very competent minister.

Absolutely. He is the keystone of not just the government today but of the whole political structure.

Absolutely. He has got goodwill across all sides and respect.

(He is) a very seasoned and mature person and he would not be condoning any of this nonsense.

The second thing that happens is that in the affidavit which was filed by the department of telecom in Raja's defence, it's not Pranab Mukherjee but the Prime Minister who has been implicated. It says, `I kept the Prime Minister informed of all this.' But this is an amazing government that a ministry can file an affidavit in such a controversial case implicating the Prime Minister?

I am actually astonished, because there is a thing called the transaction of business rules. It provides that if there is a matter which involves different ministries, then you must consult them. Secondly, if there is a disagreement, then collective deliberation must be exercised and the decision will be taken by the Cabinet or by the group of ministers as authorised.

In this case, it was a matter of great controversy, not just the affidavit, but even on the auctioning, nonauctioning of spectrum, methods of allocation of licences and to his great credit, Chidambaram as Finance Minister repeatedly insisted on spectrum auctioning. The Law Minister, Mr Bhardwaj, wrote that given the implications of this particular matter, a group of ministers should be set up.

Even Mr Bhardwaj?

But you see, you have to give credit to the person. He took a firm stand, a clear stand on this.

No, I said Mr Bhardwaj because you would expect political flexibility from him--ally ko accommodate karna hai.

Could be, but in this case, he took a clear line under the rules of business, under the transaction of business rules, and Raja completely disregards that. So not just the affidavit, I think they had filed it on their own without consultation with the other departments which are implicated. And certainly the Prime Minister, I would be surprised. I would be surprised on both counts. If the Prime Minister did not know, then it would be a very surprising thing.

You think normally the Prime Minister would have known, since you have been inside the system? You know prime ministers have a way of knowing what's going on.

Yes, there is a delicious incident.

Yashwant Sinha told me that you must remember prime ministers know everything under our system.

And he narrates that when he was finance minister, he got a message from the leader of a state, saying, `please meet me'. Mr Sinha mentioned it to Prime Minister Mr Vajpayee. A month or two later, there was a lunch. Nobody knew about it.

He (Sinha) had gone in an unmarked car. Lunch was over and this person handed him an envelope at the end of the lunch. Sinha put it in his pocket, came back and when he opened it, it was about some cases the person was involved in or the others were involved in and these were arguments as to why these cases do not merit consideration. So when he met Mr Vajpayee, he told him `unhone yeh kaha, maine yeh kaha'. Atalji kept listening, and then said, "aur woh lifafa (and that envelope)?" Sinha said he had not mentioned the lifafa. He had forgotten about it, but the Prime Minister knew. And he narrates several such instances.

But now you think the Prime Minister had also had it?

Yes, I think there is such brazenness in this and the CAG's report is quite well-documented and apart from the CAG, the facts are there.

And he is not just implicating Arun Shourie or Pramod Mahajan--we are nobody, but Pranab Mukherjee one day, the Prime Minister one day.

Only Sonia Gandhi is left?

Sonia Gandhi se to darna padta hai.

Raja talks about following firstcome first-served. But he says he (Shourie) also followed an old price discovered spectrum and I also did that.

In 2001, tele-density in India was 3.8 per cent of the population. Today, it is nearly 50 per cent. At that time, spectrum was not short. Mobile telephony had just come. To encourage that, there was a policy.

The whole sector had collapsed because of the fixed licence fee. So there was a transition to 1999.

Okay, you don't pay the fixed fee, you pay a share of the revenue. It saved the sector and led to growth.

At that time, that price was discovered. In 2003, if you look at the figures, there was hardly any growth, 3.8 went to about 5 per cent (teledensity). Now, when you have this enormous growth, to say that this asset costs only that much, and a very interesting point also, the licences which were given were not being used in some parts of the country, northeast, I think Orissa or West Bengal, one of the eastern states and Kashmir also. So we said, we should move towards auctioning. We should separate licencing from spectrum. In the meantime, don't hold up this process, go with the 2001 price. All this was done not by me alone, but by the group of ministers, by the cabinet.

But he says that I have raised so much money from my 3G auction, nobody has done it.

Because he has been forced to auction it, otherwise he would have done the 2G thing again in 3G.

And that's when Pranab Mukherjee took charge.

He had to. In the terms of reference of the group of ministers, the pricing of spectrum was included and Raja insisted this should be taken out. And somehow it was taken out and it could not have been done under our system without the knowledge of the Prime Minister. Of course, the Prime Minister has many other big things to do and was maybe not paying any attention to this but this is the kind of thing Raja's people will now argue in court.

How good is the CBI? How good is our system for catching this?

The CBI is quite competent to do these things, but unfortunately it has lost the will to do it, because it has been manipulated by politicians.

Why is your party insisting on JPC? Is that a better way of doing it?

With great respect to the Opposition, I think this is not the right demand at all. There was a JPC on Harshad Mehta, what happened?

Nothing. Bofors, nothing happened.

Pardon me for being cynical.

Look at the BJP. Look at the state governments the BJP is running. Look at Jharkhand, look at Karnataka, they are among two of the most corrupt governments in India.

Well, there is a great homogenisation of political parties. I think that's a great problem. If you go to Karnataka today and say what does X or Y party stand for, they stand for the same things. So, one should differentiate oneself by one's conduct. I believe idealism is the practical politics today.

So you think overall, the action taken in the Raja case is a cause for some cheer?

Yes, I think in three-four cases-in Adarsh Society, in Raja's case, in the Commowealth Games.

Once again, a good beginning, but we must once begin and then persevere. I am delighted that action has been taken. All of us wish that the Prime Minister would exercise his authority more. Otherwise what is happening is what happened in Raja's case, that under the umbrella of the Prime Minister's good name, all this dacoity was going on. It is not a service to the country for a good person to be merely a good person in his own right.

Arun, always a privilege to share a walk the talk with you and a much bigger privilege to walk in your steps.

Transcribed by Sutirtha Sanyal

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Talk Back with Arun Shourie Seg 2

BJP leader Arun Shourie tells Bloomberg UTV's Hindol Sengupta why he believes India must learn to fear China

Talk Back with Arun Shourie

Senior BJP leader Arun Shourie tells Bloomberg UTV's Hindol Sengupta why India will be isolated in Copenhagen

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