New Delhi, July 2: Sharad Pawar has turned down the Prime Minister’s request to head the empowered group of ministers on telecom, apparently fearing Team Anna might renew its accusations linking him to some of the 2G accused.
Manmohan Singh, who has allowed Pawar to excuse himself, had appointed him chairman of the EGoM in place of Pranab Mukherjee who has left the government. Singh will face a scarcity of senior ministers to head GoMs if he gives any credence to Team Anna, which has already declared 15 top ministers as corrupt.
Pawar’s allusion to Team Anna was clear in his letter to Singh. “Attempts have been made in the past to unnecessarily drag me (into) the controversy surrounding the allocation of 2G spectrum. These allegations were false and ill-motivated,” Pawar writes.
Team Anna had portrayed accused such as Shahid Balwa, Vinod Goenka, Rajiv Agrawal and Karim Morani as close to Pawar.
Pawar had earlier recused himself from the GoM studying measures to strengthen the anti-corruption regime.
“I believe that my association in the decision-making process as the chairman of the EGoM may further motivate the vested elements to try to drag me in the controversy....” Pawar’s letter says.
The EGoM was to meet today but could not. It had earlier cancelled a June 21 meeting that was to decide on spectrum pricing and related issues as Mukherjee did not want to be part of such a key decision as he was entering the presidential race.
Many were puzzled when Pawar was named for the job as he has had no experience in the finance, law or telecom ministries. Sources close to Pawar said he did not fancy being a “fall guy”.
Telecom regulator Trai and the telecom department have sought high reserve prices that the telecom firms want lowered if services to customers are not to become too costly.
“A logical decision to lower the reserve price would be taken as proof that Pawar has vested interests. A decision to keep the prices high could be read as preference for players who did not lose licences as this would perpetuate their monopoly,” they said.