Describing home minister P Chidambaram as “a valued colleague”, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said he would discuss the issue with him and law minister Salman Khurshid before making any further comment on a finance ministry note that had suggested lapses on Chidambaram's part in preventing the 2G spectrum scam.
Mukherjee, who met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for nearly an hour against the backdrop of heightened opposition attacks against the government on issues related to the 2G spectrum scam, sought to delink the meeting from the political issues back home. “I am going away to Kolkata immediately after I reach Delhi and therefore wanted to brief the prime minister on my meetings in Washington,” Mukherjee said.
Mukherjee refused comment on the note, saying he had only read newspaper reports about it. “Some information has come out in the form of a finance ministry communication to the PMO. Unless I talk to the law minister and the home minister, who is a valued colleague, and go through the papers, I can’t comment,” he said.
Mukherjee reportedly feels that many of the documents accessed under the RTI Act are privileged and should not have been in the public domain. “I am not here to satisfy your infinitive inquisitiveness,” he retorted when more questions were posed to him.
The BJP has focused its attacks on Singh and Chidambaram, who was finance minister when the scam was underway, accusing them of not having done enough to prevent it.
The finance ministry note, accessed under the RTI Act, has added ammunition to the BJP attack.
Another set of documents accessed under the RTI Act suggest that Singh acceded to former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran's demand that spectrum pricing be kept out of the purview of a group of ministers on spectrum allocation. Mukherjee was chairman of that GoM.
Mukherjee cut short his tour of Washington by 12 hours to meet the prime minister in New York before he flies to Delhi. After the controversy over the finance ministry note erupted, the prime minister had expressed "full confidence" in the home minister.
The PM was planning a quiet Sunday with his family — one of his daughters and husband live in New York — ahead of his 79th birthday on September 26. He will be flying back to India on his birthday.