The United Progressive Alliance government’s talks over a Finance Ministry note regarding the 2G spectrum allocation scandal have reached a head, with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister P Chidambaram sending an ‘all is well’ message and Chidambaram announcing that the ‘matter is closed.’
The government has been under fire from the opposition over a March 2011 Finance Ministry note ‘seen by’ Mukherjee that suggested that then-Finance Minister Chidambaram could have done more to prevent the 2G scam, which included the selling off of 2G spectrum significantly below market prices.
The two principal players in the latest 2G controversy, Mukherjee and Chidambaram, appeared together outside New Delhi’s North Block this evening to issue a clarification. Mukherjee read out a prepared statement, reading each line twice to overcome the din created by the assembled media. ‘I’m happy with the statement made by my senior and distinguished colleague… and the matter is closed.’ Union Ministers Kapil Sibal and Salman Khurshid were also in attendance, but didn’t speak. The ministers didn’t take any questions after the statements were delivered.
‘A number of stories on 2G have appeared in 2011. A view was taken that a harmonised note based on facts be produced by various representatives of the government,’ Mukherjee said. ‘A background paper was prepared and sent to the PMO. The papers contain certain interpretations. Apart from the factual background, the paper contains certain inferences and interpretations which do not reflect my views. The policy of the government in 2007-2008 was continuation of the policy adopted in October 2003 and as reiterated by TRAI.’
The climax of the day’s fast-paced developments came after a string of back-to-back meetings involving Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mukherjee and Chidambaram and other key ministers. The decision to field Mukherjee and Chidambaram before the media was taken after they met with Singh, the first meeting between Mukherjee and Chidambaram since the 2G note controversy erupted.
Law Minister Salman Khurshid and Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, V. Narayanasamy, also met Chidambaram. A beaming Khurshid said after the meeting: ‘All is well. Don't worry.’ Following this remark, Chidambaram went to meet Mukherjee in North Block. Mukherjee and Defence Minister A.K. Antony also met Sonia Gandhi. During this meeting it was decided that Chidambaram must be defended with the full force of the government and the party.
However, the opposition is unsurprisingly not happy. The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party quickly dismissed Mukherjee’s remarks and Chidambaram’s acquiescence, saying Chidambaram was in no position to accept Mukherjee’s statement.