Sonia seeks to quell 2G controversy; meets Chidambaram, Pranab

New Delhi : Congress president Sonia Gandhi Monday intervened to sort out the controversy created by a finance ministry note on 2G spectrum allocation by separately meeting Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. The Congress, meanwhile, dismissed reports Chidambaram had offered to quit.

Gandhi first met Chidambaram at her 10 Janpath residence for about 20 minutes.

Chidambaram, who has not interacted with the media on the note, is learnt to have apprised Gandhi of his role in the 2G spectrum allocation in 2008, when he was the finance minister.

Mukherjee later drove to Gandhi’s residence to explain his position on the note which was sent by his ministry to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

Reacting on the issue, Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said: “The note is a summary of all that exists. There are some judgemental sentences in it which will be dealt with in an appropriate way by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.”

Terming news reports of Chidambaram offering to resign as “speculative”, Singhvi said: “There was no question of a war within the government.”

He said people should wait for the court hearing in the 2G spectrum case Sep 27.

However, BJP spokesperson Jagat Prakash Nadda Monday demanded Chidambaram should be sacked and a criminal investigation initiated against him.

Sources close to Mukherjee said he told Gandhi that the note had come into public domain due to information provided by the PMO to a Right to Information (RTI) query.

He is also learnt to have told her that the draft note was prepared following a series of official meetings.

Party sources said that more meetings of top leaders were expected after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s return to the country Tuesday.

Mukherjee, who met the prime minister for nearly an hour in New York on Sunday, returned from his visit to the US Monday. He described Chidambaram as a valuable colleague.

Congress sources said Manmohan Singh and Mukherjee had spoken to Chidambaram from the US.

Mukherjee lavished more praise on his ministerial colleague before his meeting with Gandhi.

“He (Chidambaram) is a pillar of strength (to the government),” he said.

Congress sources said the party leadership was keen to quell the controversy which was giving the government bad publicity and creating an impression of fissure among two of the senior-most ministers.

Both Mukherjee and Chidambaram are party heavyweights in charge of crucial portfolios and members of the Congress core committee which deliberates on all vital decisions concerning the government.

The sources said that Mukherjee and Chidambaram meeting Gandhi separately had reinforced the impression that there was some chasm between them and it needs to be quickly bridged.

There is also apprehension in party circles that the opposition will train its guns on the prime minister if it succeeds in getting Chidambaram’s resignation.

Congress sources said that the government does not want the controversy “to spiral further”.

The opposition has been quick to latch on to the controversy and has sought Chidambaram’s resignation. It has also spoken about a “civil war” like situation in the government.

While the Congress and the government have defended Chidambaram in the face of the controversy, Law Minister Salman Khurshid Monday said that inferences being drawn on the note were “unwarranted”.

Seeking to play down the issue, he said the note was just a “summary” by a junior official.

“I have seen the note. I don’t think there is any such big issue in it for which we should express concern,” Khurshid said.

“It is a summary and in a summary, sometimes a person goes beyond and gives his opinion. What is the importance of this opinion, we shall see when we discuss.”

“I understand that the way some people are presenting it (the note) is in an exaggerated manner. There is nothing like that in reality,” Khurshid said.

The minister also suggested that the media should not be preoccupied by the document.

The March 25 note to the PMO from the finance ministry says that the airwaves could have been auctioned in 2008 if Chidambaram, who was then the finance minister, had “stuck to his stand”.

In the note, the finance ministry says Chidambaram could have prevented spectrum from being given away at throwaway prices by insisting on its auction — implying that presumptive losses worth thousands of crores of rupees could have thus been avoided.


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