Column : Raja jumps the gun

Written by Anandita Singh Mankotia | Updated: Apr 30 2010, 05:14am hrs
In the midst of the exuberance over ever-rising bids for the auctions of the 3G spectrum, the government seems to have once again lost sight of the misdemeanours of telecom minister A Raja. While it is common knowledge that the auctions took place despite him, the minister has left no stone unturned to spoil the governments party. He chose to speak to the media about 4G auctions, while the 3G auctions are still going on. Such remarks coming from the minister have the propensity to dampen the bids.

Perhaps that was an innocent act of folly, but what does one make of the ministers frequent remarks in the media over the last few days on the subject of how long the auctions would last, the point of price discovery, etc Surely the minister should not speak on such sensitive matters as it could amount to dishing out insider information. In any case, even the minister should not be aware of such information.

So it was most off-putting to hear the minister tell the Rajya Sabha on Thursday that the auctions are expected to end in the next two days. Does this not send a hint to interested parties

Such statements by A Raja convey to the operators that the government might increase the level of activity from the current 80% to 90% the next day. That can easily be taken as a cue to shift out from the category-A circles to the next rung of B and C. According to the auction guidelines, there are three parties involved, namely the DoT, which represents the owner of the spectrum to be auctioned; the auctioneerNM Rothschild; and the bidders, the private operators.

In order to have a free and fair auction the rules allow all three parties to have the same level of information. All the bidders have been refrained from giving out any information regarding their plans and strategies during the auction and the only information available is the bid amounts at the end of a day and the number of operators bidding in each circle.

To prevent any leakage of information the government has even forbidden itself to act as proxy for bidding for operators in case of a technical hitch. Is it right then for Raja to speak on such matters while the process is on Can he not wait for the auctions to end if he has to give his views on the entire process

anandita.mankotia@expressindia.com