PM sounds hollow before TV editors Manmohan fails to convince nation

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on February 16 asserted he was not aware of the methodology of the First Come, First Served (FCFS) policy followed for 2-G spectrum allocation by the former Telecom Minister A. Raja.

“Who got the licenses… how FCFS was implemented; this was never discussed with me nor was it brought to the Cabinet. This was exclusively the Telecom Minister’s decision,” Dr. Singh said in an interaction with the editors from the electronic media.

He, however, said that since the Ministries of Finance and Telecom had agreed to continue with the existing policy of allocating 2-G spectrum, “I did not feel that I was in a position to insist that auction must be insisted.”

On retaining Raja as the Telecom Minister in the UPA-II, the Prime Minister said in a coalition government, the choices of the leaders of the alliance partners have to be accepted and that the DMK had suggested Raja and Dayanidhi Maran into the Union Cabinet.

“At that moment, there was no reason to feel that anything wrong had been done,” the Prime Minister said.

Addressing editors of the electronic media, Prime Minister Manmohan on February 16 said the government was dead serious to bring to book all the wrongdoers regardless of their position in 2-G spectrum, CWG, ISRO and Adarsh scams.

To a question why A. Raja was inducted in the UPA II Cabinet, the Prime Minister said: “Complaints were coming in (against  Raja), but I was not in a position to make up my mind if anything was seriously wrong.”

Dr. Singh said he had conveyed to  Raja the concerns over 2-G spectrum issue, but did not press further for auction after the Ministries of Telecom and Finance agreed to go by the prevailing system of first-come first-served basis.

Dr. Singh said in his letter to  Raja in November 2007, one of the issues he asked him was to look at “the possibility of technical and legal angle of having an auction of spectrum.”

“Raja wrote back to me almost on the same day our letters crossed and he said I (Raja) have been absolutely transparent in my dealings and will be doing so in the future.”

Turning to the issue of the Parliament deadlock, the Prime Minister said that talks were going on with the Opposition. “Whatever differences we have with the Opposition, Parliament should be allowed to function,” he said.

“After the Budget Session of Parliament, there will be a restructuring of the Cabinet,” the Prime Minister said.

Dr. Singh said the government was trying to strike a balance between growth and inflation, despite the government having no control over international events, which were partly fuelling the price rise.

Exuding confidence that inflation would fall to 7 percent by March-end, Dr. Singh said the government was trying to tackle the situation without hurting growth, which he pegged at around 8.5 percent for the entire fiscal.

Food inflation has been hovering above 15 percent in the past few months before falling to 13.07 percent in the last week of January.

Commenting on economic growth, Dr. Singh said India has done well to come out of the aftermath of the global financial crisis and “our economy is in a good shape. We will have a growth rate of 8.5 percent this fiscal year.”

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