New Delhi: With just a week left for Tamil Nadu to go to the polls in the fifth phase of the elections to the 15th Lok Sabha, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday charged the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, or DMK, minister in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, A. Raja, of being involved in a multi-crore scam.
Under fire: BJP claims five shortlisted firms are promoted by a co-nfidant of telecom minister Raja. Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint
BJP is allied with DMK rival All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, or AIADMK, in the current election.
It has demanded the sacking of Raja, the Union communications minister and the suspension of BSNL’s Wimax franchise allocation process. Wimax is a wireless communication technology that enables data-intensive applications.
“BJP demands that allotment of BSNL’s Wimax franchise should be suspended immediately and the telecom minister be sacked immediately as reports suggest a wholesale loot and corruption in the process,” the party’s spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said in a press conference here.
Five of the six shortlisted companies have been promoted by Raja’s confidant Sanjay Kapoor and are registered on a single date with the same notary, auditor, witnesses, address and email ID, the party said in an official release.
The opposition has argued that if the current allocation of the Wimax franchise goes ahead it would result in a major loss for public sector BSNL.
“If the current process of allotment goes ahead, it will mean giving 20MHz spectrum without any investment and offering free use for these companies assets like BSNL’s 50,000 communication towers, 20,000 offices and 2 million km of fibre network, free of cost,” Javadekar said.
When asked about the basis of the opposition’s allegation, Javadekar said, “not only the newspaper reports, we have confirmed about this scam from our own sources and experts in the sector.”
Wimax is short for worldwide inter-operability for microwave access, a standard that is capable of data speeds of 10 megabits per second up to 2km away from a radio transmitter. With such wide ranges, telecom design engineers believe that Wimax presents itself as not just a powerful alternative to the so-called third generation (or 3G) wireless telecom networks for data, but also as a cheap and efficient alternative to voice communications compared with current cellular networks.
The BSNL tender was issued at least three months ago. The tender is based on a revenue-share model where winning bidders share revenue with the government, a senior BSNL executive said, asking not to be identified. He declined to elaborate on the issue.
The tender itself had some surprising terms, said one expert.
What is interesting though is that while BSNL started rolling out 3G operations on its own, it opted to give to someone else its infrastructure, which essentially belongs to the government, (and which will now be given to) outside firms to build, own and operate Wimax services, this person said, asking not to be identified.
Shauvik Ghosh contributed to this story.