Exclusive: They Want To Buy Me, A Raja Claims He Warned Then PM Singh

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Exclusive: They Want To Buy Me, A Raja Claims He Warned Then PM Singh

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A Raja's memoir, "In My Defense", pushes his claim that he was made the fall guy for decisions.

New Delhi: 

Highlights

  1. A Raja's book on telecom scam will release in November
  2. He was jailed on corruption charges for the scam
  3. Raja accused of selling mobile network licenses for bribes
Former Telecom Minister A Raja, who spent 15 months in jail, is ready to go public his version of one of India's biggest corruption scandals. The 53-year-old's account of the scam that forced his resignation has been been cleared by leaders of his party, the DMK, and is now being finalised by his publishers for release in November.

Mr Raja's memoir, "In My Defense," pushes his claim that he was made the fall guy for decisions that were sanctioned by then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and policies that he insists were collectively shaped by top ministers like P Chidambaram and Pranab Mukherjee as India turned into one of the world's largest markets of cellphone services because of the low cost to customers.

While Mr Raja says it was people-friendly decisions that empowered millions of Indians with connectivity, the national auditor found in 2010 that 1.76 lakh crores had been lost in the "2G scam" named for the second-generation airwaves or spectrum that was provided free to companies that got mobile network licenses at below-market prices. The auditor or CAG said the spectrum should have been auctioned and that Mr Raja granted out-of-turn licenses to telecoms who bribed him.

But Mr Raja, who has represented himself in the ongoing trial in Delhi, describes the telecom scam in his memoir as "a by-product of corporate wars and institutional abrasions." In 2010, he quit as Telecom Minister and was jailed just three months later.   

Mr Raja claims that months before the 2G licenses were allotted, he met with the PM to complain about "those who want to buy me" - his description of corporates and cabinet ministers who were allegedly pressuring him to delay the process.  Dr Singh has always said he urged Mr Raja to hold a bidding process.

Mr Raja writes that ahead of the distribution of the new licenses, top entrepreneurs sought him out to lobby their stands.  At the time, he says, operators like Airtel and Vodafone, who were using the more popular GSM platform for mobile connections, wanted to block other companies who used the CDMA technology (like Anil Ambani's Reliance Comm), as also firms like real estate developer Unitech who were looking to enter the telecom space.

Mr Raja, the CBI has alleged, met with Unitech's promoter Sanjay Chandra and Swan Realty's Shahid Balwa at his residence before licenses were allotted where the group conspired to illicitly get telecom rights.  Both men were jailed along with Mr Raja for paying him bribes before being granted bail.  The former minister says in his book that he also met in September 2007 at his house with Bharti's top boss, Sunil Mittal, one of India's most respected businessmen.

Mr Raja says the meeting was organized by Karti Chidambaram, whose father P Chidambaram was then Home Minister. "I find it strange that an industrialist of Mittal's stature needed my assistance to meet a cabinet minister," Karti Chidambaram told NDTV.

A spokesperson for Mr Mittal's firm said the company would not like to comment on this report.

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