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Over seven years after he was demonised as “Spectrum Raja”, the man who allegedly robbed the nation of a staggering Rs 1.76 lakh crore through a supposedly dubious process of allocating 2G spectrum and licences to telecom operators, former telecom minister A Raja is ready with his tell-all account. Raja’s book, 2G SAGA UNFOLDS, recounts his turbulent journey from being a village boy in Tamil Nadu to becoming one of India’s most discredited politicians, hounded by rivals and friends-turned-foes for a “scam” that perhaps never happened. Published by Har-Anand Publications, the 197-page book gives a blow-by-blow account of how he was accused of perpetrating the largest “swindle” the country had ever heard of. Raja holds no punches against former Comptroller and Auditor General Vinod Rai—the man who wove the tale of the spectrum scam—and makes startling revelations against Airtel’s Sunil Mittal, even as he raises questions on the role played by former finance minister P Chidambaram and son Karti in the spectrum saga. Exclusive excerpts:

ON FORMER CAG VINOD RAI

Vinod Rai while appearing well-intentioned, has executed the functions of his office with ulterior motives and lack of objectivity… Rai’s report is essentially a mixture of inappropriate legal interpretations, incongruous comparisons and flippant allegations, ignoring the Government’s standpoint and the concomitant laws…

Everybody—shockingly even the Supreme Court bench—became so enthralled by the notion of a hypothesized presumptive loss figure as indicative of an actual ‘scam’ of huge proportion that emotion trumped over logic and—more significantly—the legal process.

Vinod Rai also had the temerity to dub himself the ‘Nation’s Conscience Keeper’… He in his role as CAG was the ‘sutradhaar’ who created the devious apparition which the media and political opposition followed…

I will show that Rai’s words and actions are: Malicious vigilantism that makes a mockery of his constitutional responsibilities;… corrupt commercialism couched in moral rhetoric and veiled altruism. I am certain that reports of auditors like Shriman Vinod Rai which I will show to be mere trash shall be unanimously deemed fit for the dustbin…

ON HIMSELF

I take great pride in my efforts to bring technological progress to our country that was lagging behind in the wireless telecom domain by at least a decade and for being instrumental in making available Mobile, Internet, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, etc., to the masses… My promises to the nation to bring down 2G call charges to a mere 30 paisea as also to introduce 3G technology ubiquitously, have already reached fruition. Yet, I stand blemished and cast out…

Normally during a prosecution, the defence argument would be that the crime did occur but the accused (in this case I) did not commit it. It has been my stand from day one that I have been charged for a ‘murder’ but the alleged ‘murder victim’ is still alive! My plea is hence rooted in righteousness and truth and not the usual defence of ‘benefit of doubt’…

ON SUNIL MITTAL AND KARTHI

Karthi Chidambaram who is an acquaintance called me up one day during the middle of September 2007 and told me that his friend Sunil Mittal (of Airtel) urgently wanted to speak with me that very day, since he was going abroad later in the night…

The social and industry standing of Mittal, the substantial share of COAI in the Telecom sector and Karthi Chidambaram’s recommendation made me agree to meet him at 10:30 pm in my camp office.

At this meeting, Mittal said that the TRAI recommendations did not give adequate protection to foreign investors who had invested in their Indian partner companies using GSM and also did not ensure provision of additional spectrum for their future expansion…

He boasted of his position of influence in the telecom sector as also his personal political clout…

.. I was keen on ensuring an environment conducive to the amicable enforcement of TRAI’s recommendations, so I continued the dialogue. “Do you fear that somebody will buy me? Let me assure you that there might be a price for me but I don’t think there is anybody in this world rich enough to pay it.”

This got Mittal on the defensive, and he denied any intention of implying that. He reiterated his comment about cordial relationship with the ministry and concluded that, “they were prepared for any kind of cordial relationship.”

The underlying allusion seemed easy to comprehend and I made it clear to Mittal that I was not for such one-sided cordiality when what was needed was an objective and neutral atmosphere for the good of the nation. He took leave saying, “Let me come back to you after discussing with the other companies. Please do not take any decision until then. Let me meet you after my return from my foreign tour.”… Contrary to my expectation and his earlier assurance Mittal did not follow-through on his promise of a subsequent meeting.

I briefed the PM about this meeting with Mittal as well as Karthi Chidambaram’s role in arranging it and ensured that he understood the tenor of this key stake holder and industry leader.

ON P CHIDAMBARAM

On 11 November 2010, the mediatory peace talks initiated by the Hon’ble Speaker of the Lok Sabha Mrs Meira Kumar to end the thirteen-day impasse of the Parliament ended in failure. The opposition was seeking a Joint Parliamentary Committee… It was P. Chidambaram who openly opposed it and stated that Congress would prefer facing an election rather than a JPC. P Chidambaram’s stand on the 2G case is still a puzzle to me. He is an administrator of strong acumen, an able lawyer and a seasoned Parliamentarian. Yet, I was surprised to see him shying away from discussing the 2G situation with me and even avoiding speaking to me when we happened to pass each other in the airport. The only grouse that I have is that he did not support the idea of the JPC and as a result the Supreme Court Bench had — what I can best describe as — an emotional outburst against me and the government. He need not have done anything to protect or support me, but he could certainly have helped a good Government from being subjected to ignominy and its image being tarnished… Chidambaram’s silence and his avoiding me put me on caution about what might be coming down the road. I sensed that a decision to put me behind the bars had been taken to salvage the Government’s image…

ON DR MANMOHAN SINGH AND PRANAB MUKHERJEE

In the first week of December 2007 I had another meeting with the Prime Minister. During that discussion, I explained the background of the TRAI recommendation and its legal interpretations. I handed over copies of the Finance Ministry’s letter (22 November 2007) and the Telecom Ministry’s reply letter (29 November 2007). After going through the letters, the PM gave me a good suggestion, “There is nothing wrong in your effort to prove that you have legal justification for every action of yours. I know well that some of the Ministerial colleagues have a partisan view on this issue. On one side the pendency of judicial proceedings, on the other side the insufficient understanding within the Cabinet and the media’s attempts to depict as if a very big irregularity was taking place; so, you send me a note after examining the ways to resolve this issue which is considered to be a complex one after holding talks in detail with both Pranab Mukherjee, the Chairman of the GoM on spectrum and Vahanvati, the Solicitor General who is appearing in these cases, enabling us to find a right course of action.”… I met Pranab Mukherjee in his office and explained to him with relevant documents the details of the discussion that I had with the Prime Minister. I also apprised him that I would soon be meeting the Solicitor General Vahanvati. I held talks with Vahanvati, in the second week of December 2007… ‘The Pioneer’ — which is well known to be BJP’s mouthpiece — had started personally targeting me through its investigative reporter J Gopikrishna, from December 2008… The charge-sheet filed by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate did not accept any of the allegations published by ‘The Pioneer’, but still J Gopikrishna was honoured on 23 December 2010 by CNN-IBN…

Ironically it was Pranab Mukherjee who presented the awards at that event even though his notes in the official records had been filed in the courts as key evidence for the defence. How ironic that such a senior minister and later President of the nation, publicly rewarded a ‘hired press-parrot’ for reports contradicting his own prior official actions!… The UPA government’s and even more so Dr Manmohan Singh’s palpable silence in relation to defending my wholly justified actions especially when the governing bodies (CVC, CBI, JPC, Supreme Court) were refusing to hear my defence felt to me like a silencing of our nation’s collective conscience…

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