Finally, UPA tries to end crisis over 2G note


New Delhi: The government Thursday sought to bury a flaming row over a finance ministry note that linked Home Minister P. Chidambaram to the 2G scandal, with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee denying the note reflected his views on the controversial 2008 spectrum allocation.

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In a bid to show that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was united, Mukherjee read out a prepared statement outside his North Block office. He was flanked by a visibly sullen Chidambaram and cabinet ministers Salman Khurshid and Kapil Sibal.

“Apart from the factual background (on spectrum allocation), the paper (note) contains certain inferences and interpretations which do not reflect my views,” Mukherjee said.

The note sent to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) by the finance ministry in March suggested that the spectrum allocation could have been auctioned had Chidambaram, as the then finance minister, insisted.

Since the note became public, Chidambaram has come under attack for alleged links with the spectrum scandal, which has landed a former cabinet minister and several others in prison.

Chidambaram also faced opposition calls that he should quit.

After Mukherjee spoke, the home minister said the controversy triggered by the note was now over.

He added he was happy with the statement read out by his “senior and distinguished colleague”.

Mukherjee’s statement came on a day after he again met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who were desperate to end a crisis that seemed to pit Mukherjee against Chidambaram.

In his statement, Mukherjee said the government had sought to prepare “a harmonized note based on facts … for use by various representatives of the government.

“A group of officers prepared an inter-ministerial background paper which was sent to PMO on March 25,” he said.

He said the inferences in the note — which is what caused the problems for Chidambaram and the government — did not have his approval.

Mukherjee had until now taken no such categorical stand. He had met Manmohan Singh once in New York and Sonia Gandhi twice but did not divulge the details of their discussions.

The prime minister had already declared that he stood by Chidambaram.

Mukherjee also linked 2G spectrum allocation in 2008 to the earlier National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“The policy of the government in 2007-08 was continuation of the policy adopted in October 2003 and as reiterated by the TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India,” he said.