2G scam: waiting for SC order was a mistake, admits Chidambaram

Former finance minister P Chidambaram on Friday admitted that the 2G spectrum scam was one of the reasons for the Congress-led UPA government's rout in the 2014 general elections, adding that his government should have cancelled 2G licences as soon as the scam came to light, without waiting for a Supreme Court judgement to this effect.

"Clearly ... it hurt the Congress Party. I think 2G could have been handled differently, in the sense that the Prime Minister [Manmohan Singh] could have put his foot down and said I am sorry, I will not let you go forward with the first come first served route," he said at a book launch in New Delhi.

"Or after the licences had been granted and issue was brought up, he [Manmohan] could have said, cancel licences, without waiting for the judgement. It hurt us. My personal view was once this came out as a scandal of bandwidth allotment, the government should have cancelled all the licences (immediately)," said the former union finance minister in a debate where he was pitted against current finance minister Arun Jaitley of the BJP.

The debate took place during the launch of a book by journalist and well-known TV anchor Rajdeep Sardesai, titled 2014: The Election That Changed India; and was moderated by the equally well-known print and TV journalist Karan Thapar.

Referring to the Congress defeat in Lok Sabha polls, Chidambaram said after 10 years in power, anti-incumbency stares one in the face, and admitted that some mistakes were made.

But, he added, the economy was a major factor and if the government had been able to turn it around, then the results might have been different. "But still BJP would have been number one," he admitted.

On why the then government did not cancel the licences, Chidambaram said it was decided to wait for the court verdict. "These are the matters which do not come to the Cabinet. These are ideas which are discussed informally,'' he said.