Shourie accuses Sibal of sitting on vsnl land demerger

Former BJP telecom minister Arun Shourie has countered telecom minister Kapil Sibal’s contention that NDA’s policies resulted in the Tata group “enjoyed the precious government land [with VSNL] without paying a single rupee” for the last nine years.

Shourie pointed out that Congress was in power for seven out of the nine years and it had a higher responsibility for answering why the land was not taken away from the Tata’s, as was envisaged in the sale deed of 45% of the firm in 2002.

“This probe will boomerang on Kapil Sibal and the Congress,” he said.

According to a widely reported promoter deal involving Tata Finvest, the holding investment company of Tata involved in the VSNL deal, the land is worth more than the rest of the company itself.

At the time of the sale, VSNL had with it ‘excess land’ of 773 acres, which was supposed to be returned to the government and the individual shareholders who participated in Tata’s open offer in 2002. The land lies adjacent to VSNL’s offices in New Delhi, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai.

In the 2008 promoter deal, ‘landless’ shares of VSNL were sold for Rs 204 each, while ‘landed’ shares were valued at Rs 510 each, indicating that 60% of the final price was that of the land.

The Department of Telecom probe will be completed by end of March and is part of a raft of investigations launched by Sibal in his attempt to score political points and settle accounts with those who were ‘in favor’ during his predecessors’ times.