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BJP finds itself in 2G dock after CBI files case

Sunday November 20, 2011 09:51:31 AM, IANS

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New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Saturday found itself in a bind over 2G spectrum allocation to private firms during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) rule with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registering a fresh case into the role of late Pramod Mahajan between 2001-03 when he headed the telecom ministry.

The investigation agency also raided offices of private telecom firms in Mumbai and Gurgaon apart from residences of former telecom officials in connection with the case Saturday.

"The agency has registered a case in the allocation of additional spectrum today during the NDA's rule," said a CBI official.

Among the offices raided were that of Vodafone in Mumbai, and Airtel in Gurgaon. The residences of Shyamal Ghosh, a former telecom secretary and chairman of telecom commission and J.R. Gupta, a deputy director general in the department of telecom, too came under CBI searches. A total of five places were searched, the official said.

"The agency also raided the Vodafone office in Mumbai, Airtel office in Gurgaon and residences of Shyamal Ghosh and J.R. Gupta," the official added.

The case was registered under section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of Indian Penal Code and sections 13(2) and 13(1)(d) of Prevention of Corruption Act against the two former telecom officials and three private cellular companies -- Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar, and Vodafone Essar Mobile Services -- and others Thursday, the official said.

The case has been registered for allegations of irregularities in the grant of additional 2G spectrum and causing a loss of approximately Rs.508 crore between 2001 and 2007, CBI spokesperson Dharini Mishra said.

Mahajan's name does not find a mention in the case "as he is no more".

The registration of the new case invited sharp reactions from the BJP, which said this was an effort to divert attention from the role of Home Minister P. Chidambaram in the 2G spectrum allocation when he was finance minister during the United Progressive Alliance-I regime.

It also charged the Manmohan Singh government with misusing the CBI against political opponents.

"The new case registered by CBI is nothing but an effort to save Chidambaram. We have given specific application to inquire into the role of Chidambaram but even after 60 days, they (government) have neither replied nor started investigation," said BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar.

He said the prime minister himself accepted that only after Chidambaram - as finance minister in 2008 - gave his nod, did the then communications minister A. Raja clear the allocation of spectrum. "This is a case of complicity and there is an equal responsibility of Chidambaram along with Raja in the spectrum allocation scam."

"But to save him now CBI is diverting attention, and that is why they have raked up a policy matter which was implemented in a transparent manner. This is an example of political abuse of the CBI by the Congress. That is why we want CBI to be independent. But Congress can never save Chidambaram," Javadekar said.

Trying to blunt the BJP attack, Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said the principal opposition was targeting the UPA government to hide its own (NDA) government's misdeeds between 1998 to 2004.

"The BJP has always been giving such kind of statements that government should get investigated, even whatever happened had taken place during NDA's regime," he said.

"Nobody should create any obstacle in the way law taking its own course," he added.

Even as the CBI raids on telecom firm offices continued, the companies came out with statements, saying they are co-operating with the government and their documents are in compliance with the law.

"Bharti Airtel has always maintained the highest standards of corporate governance and regulatory compliance. We would like to categorically state that all the spectrum allotted to us from time to time has been strictly as per the stated government policy," said a Bharti Airtel spokesperson.

Vodafone said in a statement: "All our documents are in complete compliance with the governing laws and regulations. Vodafone India is completely co-operating with the officials and will provide them all required details as part of their checks."







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