BY ARUN AGRAWAL
Mr Chandrasekhar should have been the last person in the country to join issues with Mr Ratan Tata on the telecom scam, which has been going on since 1999, as he was a major part of the scam. The fact that he chose to do so, shows the rapid degeneration that takes place when an unsuccessful industrialist tries to become a successful politician, courtesy money earned through the telecom scam.
Mr Chandrasekhar’s journey from an employee of a tech company to a rival of the Tatas in the telecom sector, from President of COAI to having become an independent Member of Parliament with the support of BJP, and to using (misusing) his status as MP to criticize Ratan Tata is indeed a long journey.
The most important disclosure he should have made is that he profited by more than Rs1200 crores by trading in the BPL mobile license for Bombay, Maharashtra, Goa and Tamil Nadu and selling it to Essar Hutch after the companies became sick due to his mismanagement.
He should have also disclosed his falling out with his father-in-law TPG Nambiar (along with other shareholders and creditors), the owner of BPL, over the sale of stake in the cellular holding company BPL Communication to the point that Nambiar dragged him to the Company Law Board.
He should have also disclosed the real amount that he spent for becoming a Rajya Sabha MP with BJP support as everyone knows that he bought his seat as an industrialist, more so because he was criticizing Ratan Tata as an MP and he had purchased political power from the proceeds of the gain made by trading his mobile license!
Any investigation/inquiry should include making public the amount BPL gained by selling their license/spectrum and the amount written off by the public sector banks in the credit defaults by the BPL group and the same should be recovered. I hope Mr Chandrasekhar who has chosen to wear the patriotic cap will not have any objection.
Mr Chandrasekhar’s arrogance has been exposed by Mr Ratan Tata enclosing the letter that was sent to him by Chandrasekhar for his signature. It was a letter that was addressed to the Prime Minister and was written to serve the interest of the GSM mobile operators. For Chandrasekhar to even imagine that any industrialist on the opposite side (having a limited mobility of WLL) would sign the letter betrays the mindset of a person who thinks he is too clever and that others are foolish enough not to see through his game.
It is to the eternal credit of Mr Ratan Tata that he was the only major player in the telecom sector who was serious in advocating the auctioning of the spectrum. The rest of them made fun of him because they knew that they could manipulate the system by bribing the political establishment and get the spectrum for a much lesser price..
Was it the games played by operators like Chandrasekhar that prompted Mr Ratan Tata to appoint a lobbyist like Nira Radia who could charm her way to the powers that be and ensure that Tatas too got a portion of the largesse that was being distributed to all and sundry?
That she used her position of proximity with the Minister to lobby for others and cut in other shady deals to a point of being a co conspirator is another matter.
It is for some strange reason that Mr Chandrasekhar does not find anything wrong in Anil Ambani’s RCom being given a GSM license on 18/10/2007 when there was no notification for applying for a GSM license under dual technology but finds fault with the Tata’s application of 22/10/07 for GSM after the notification for dual technology was made on 19/10/2007. The notification was made to regularize the allotment made to RCom in which a bribe was paid through transfer of Swan Telecom by Anil Ambani to benami holders on the very same day (18/10/2007) that RCom got a license.
Tatas, under the existing rules could not apply for a fresh license under the first-come-first-serve window of 24/07 to 1/10/07 because they already had a license but whether they did so through Unitech is a matter to be probed. Tatas benefited because they were in the same CDMA boat as the Ambani, but did not benefit entirely in the allotment of spectrum.
Tatas benefit is quantified in the deal with DOCOMO, who acquired a stake (Rs 13,000 crore for 26% stake), but the valuation included their earlier license and roll-out along with the fresh license. In fact the premium represents the sins of all the bribing and wheeling dealing that has been going on in the telecom sector combined with the subscriber base and infrastructure required for a successful roll-out.
Mr Tata should have ignored the letter coming as it did from a person who lacks the basic credentials to write the letter and conveniently forgets to make disclosures about himself.
However, it is also a fact that Mr Tata is not a victim but a beneficiary of the great telecom scam.
After all one cannot be wearing a three piece suit in a nudist colony!
(Arun Agrawal is the author of the book Reliance: The Real Natwar)