The meeting of the group of ministers on corruption began at 1.00 pm on Wednesday and within the next three minutes, the still-born idea to give statutory backing to the model code of conduct was given a quiet burial. The GoM, however, approved the Public Procurement Bill and wanted it to be cleared by Parliament by March 31, 2012.
Government sources said finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, who heads the crucial GoM, said that the controversial move was not part of the terms of references of the GoM on corruption and perhaps had tangentially made its way into the minutes of the meeting. Mukherjee's comments were unanimously backed by defence minister AK Antony, home minister P Chidambaram, HRD minister Kapil Sibal and minister of state for personnel V Narayanaswamy.
Facing fire from the Opposition on the controversial move to give statutory shape to executive instructions of the Election Commission of India, Narayanaswamy got up and said the item should be dropped and thereafter secretary (personnel) PK Mishra said that the "last two lines of para" of the minutes stand deleted.
While someone in the GoM inquired how the matter got leaked into the media, others wondered on co-opting the idea at the time of Assembly elections. After burying the controversy, secretary (expenditure), finance ministry, Sumit Bose made a presentation on the Public Procurement Bill. While asking for comments to be sought from relevant ministries, the bill was approved by the GoM and Mukherjee said it should be placed before Parliament by March 31, 2012.