Sonia wanted quick end to 2G note controversy: Khurshid


New Delhi: The finance ministry note on 2G spectrum had an “orphan inference” which led to disagreement between Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister P. Chidambaram, said Law Minister Salman Khurshid, adding Congress chief Sonia Gandhi wanted an early end to the controversy so that the media did not capitalise on what was, at best, a “working difference”.

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Khurshid told CNN-IBN in an interview, telecast Sunday, that Chidambaram could not have overturned the cabinet decision to allot specturm in 2008 on first-come-first-served basis even as he continued to argue for adopting the auction route.

He said there was a disagreement over the note, which was projected as raising a question mark on Chidambaram.

“I don’t think that there was a vast difference between the two of them… While Mr. Pranab Mukherjee was not in India, the media put it out that there was a major difference. There never was a difference. There was a disagreement that was projected because of that one or three lines that somehow put a question mark on Mr. Chidambaram. We all said, then, it was wrong. Pranab Mukherjee came back and said it was wrong, it wasn’t his view and that was the end of the matter,” Khurshid said.

Asked if the patch up happened because Gandhi cracked the whip, Khurshid said there was nothing wrong in the Congress president giving directions to any of the party leaders.

“I’m saying what’s wrong with Mrs. Sonia Gandhi saying to anyone of us, ‘This is what you have to do’. She’s our leader, we respect her. We don’t want to do anything that disappoints her or hurts her. What’s wrong,” he asked.

Answering a question about the note, he said a lot of senior officers from different ministries had provided their inputs in preparing it.

“But there was a relatively junior officer of the finance ministry who was putting it all together, collated it, signed it and then, of course, he sent it forward for the prime minister. There was an inference drawn in that, an inference, that was nobody’s, at best you could say it was the author’s inference, but it’s an inference that was unwarranted and therefore, it’s an orphan inference,” he said.

Defending Chidambaram, who was finance minister in 2008, Khurshid said he could not change the policy as it was a cabinet decision.

“Mr. Chidambaram, even after the cabinet decision, continued to argue for auction,” Khurshid said.

Khurshid rejected the Bhartiya Janata Party’s allegations of criminal culpability against Chidambaram.

“When there is disagreement between a large number of ministers and one minister, or between two ministers, and that disagreement is in the context of a decision by the cabinet, there is a point at which you have to say ‘Well okay, that’s far enough, we can’t go much further'”, he said.

Khurshid said Gandhi certainly desired that the press should not make a meal out of something that was maybe “like a working difference, disagreement you have in daily working”.

“Now why should that be projected as a clash of egos? As a clash or confrontation of two major ministers of our country? And I think she was absolutely justified in expecting that we will quickly put things to rest and that’s what we did,” he said.

Khurshid also rejected apprehensions that Mukherjee has perhaps emerged somewhat embarrassed from the episode.

“They (Chidambaram and Mukherjee) are the best of friends. I have seen them in the cabinet thereafter. They are the best of friends. They rely and lean upon each other tremendously. They are pillars of strength to our government and I do believe that it’s time for the press to stop trying to create a problem between any one of us, particularly between those two,” he said.