M A I N   N E W S

Pranab, PC call truce
2G note just a background paper, says FinMin
Matter closed: Chidambaram
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, September 29
After a day of hectic high-level meetings, the government today brought down the curtain on the week-long controversy over a Finance Ministry note on the 2G Spectrum case, which suggested a serious rift between Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

With a miffed Chidambaram insisting on a public clarification of the adverse reference in the office memo about his role in Spectrum allocation, Mukherjee was persuaded to make a statement today evening in which he asserted: “Certain inferences and interpretations were made in the note which do not reflect my views.”

Distancing himself from the note which triggered a storm in the government, Mukherjee underlined that the office memo in the Spectrum case, sent by his ministry to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) this March, was just an inter-ministerial background paper.

Reading from a prepared statement in the presence of Chidambaram and other senior ministers outside his North Block office, Mukherjee said, “A number of stories on 2G Spectrum appeared in the media in January 2011. A view was taken that a harmonised note based on facts be prepared by various representatives of the government.”

As soon as Mukherjee finished reading his statement, Chidambaram said, “I accept the statement and as far as all of us in the government are concerned, the matter is closed,” and described the Finance Minister as his “senior and distinguished colleague”. The two leaders did not take any questions from media persons.

Chidambaram had been feeling slighted as the Finance Ministry note showed him in poor light. Making a direct reference to Chidambaram’s role in Spectrum allocation in 2008 when he was Finance Minister, the note said: If the minister had “stuck to his stand”, then telecom minister A. Raja would not have been able to sell Spectrum cheaply to favoured companies.

The note has been seized upon by the Opposition to sharpen its attack against the Home Minister and demand his resignation. It is also being cited in the ongoing case in the Supreme Court to seek a probe into Chidmabaram’s role into the Spectrum scam.

The truce between the two ministers came after Pranab Mukherjee first called on Congress president Sonia Gandhi at her 10 Janpath residence. His two-hour discussion with Sonia was followed by a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after he returned from his day-long trip to quake-hit Sikkim. Chidambaram was also present at this meeting. This was the first time that the Prime Minister met the two ministers together after the government was engulfed by fresh revelations in the ongoing Spectrum saga.

The day-long parleys were essentially aimed at bringing this lingering crisis to an end at the earliest as it had further damaged the image of the Congress and the UPA government, already badly hit by a series of scams and scandals. Sonia Gandhi, it is learnt, urged Mukherjee to resolve this issue quickly stating that there were a host of pending matters that need to be addressed by the government on priority.

Congress leaders believe Sonia Gandhi should have stepped in much earlier to resolve this controversy which lingered on for a week due to lack of political management.

Although there is distinct unease in the party over Chidambaram’s insistence that his name be cleared, it is evident that the government and the party had to defend the Home Minister, failing which the Opposition onslaught would be targeted at the PM.





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