Attributing "sensationalism" over the CAG Vinod Rai's presumptive loss figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crore for the "killing" of the telecom sector, the government on Friday said it plans to auction by March-end the circles that were not taken in the flopped sale of mobile phone spectrum this week.
It also rejected Opposition allegations that government was celebrating the failure of the auction and said notwithstanding the poor response, it will garner the estimated Rs 40,000 crore from spectrum sales.
An Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) headed by Finance Minister P Chidambaram will meet soon to decide on price and date for auction of spectrum in circles like Delhi and Mumbai, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal told a news conference here.
The government, which had set a reserve price of Rs 14,000 crore for pan-India spectrum on the basis of CAG's assumption of Rs 1.76 lakh crore loss caused to the exchequer in the previous sale in 2008, managed a meagre Rs 9,407.64 crore in the auction that lasted barely two days.
"The telecom story is no longer a story that we can talk about to the rest of the world. People ask me the question, what happened? And quite frankly, I have no answers.
"All I can say that certain events took place and there was a level of sensationalism that took over and the government was, in a sense, limited in its policy prescriptions and had to move forward in a certain way which ultimately has resulted in what we have seen couple of days ago," he said.
Sibal said the government got more than Rs 1 lakh crore from the auction of 3G spectrum, which was used by CAG to base its presumptive loss. "But the customer got nothing" as there was no roll-out of 3G services.
"Where are those Rs 1.76 lakh crore?" he asked in an apparent reference to the CAG estimate and the money garnered in the auction that concluded on Wednesday.
Finance Minister P Chidambaram, responding to questions on the net gains made by government, said, "I think you are all jumping to numbers. I thought we started by saying let's stop myth making first. I think you are making or building more myths now."