With finance minister Pranab Mukherjee back from his visit to the US, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Monday stepped in to end the five-day-old political crisis triggered by a controversial note by his ministry on 2G spectrum allocation.
The note had suggested lapses on the part of senior minister P Chidambaram, who was then finance minister, in preventing the 2G spectrum scam.Gandhi first had a 25-minute meeting with Chidambaram, who is understood to be upset at the note prepared in March this year.
Mukherjee, who drove straight to his North Block office from the airport after describing Chidambaram as “a pillar of strength”, was next. He was closeted with Gandhi for 45 minutes.
Neither Chidambaram nor Mukherjee spoke to waiting mediapersons outside Gandhi’s residence. The much-anticipated meeting between the two is yet to take place.
But law minister Salman Khurshid came up with an explanation that some Congress leaders indicated could resolve misgivings between the two stalwarts.
“Even if we take facts in the finance ministry note to be correct, the inferences drawn (blaming Chidambaram for the 2G scam) are not correct. If anyone reads the document with common sense, he will reach the same conclusion,” Khurshid said.
Asked whether Mukherjee agreed with him, the law minister replied: “I hope he endorses my opinion.”
HT has learnt that Chidambaram presented a chronology of the government’s internal correspondence during his days as finance minister, particularly during the period between 2007-08 when the alleged scam over the allocation of 2G spectrum took place.
The home minister is understood to have pointed out that he consistently favoured the auction route for allocation of 2G spectrum.
Mukherjee, in his meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New York on Sunday and with Gandhi on Monday evening, is believed to have explained the reasons, which led to preparation of the note. The cabinet secretariat in January decided to set up an informal group of officials from the prime minister’s office (PMO) and the finance ministry to draft a status report on the alleged scam to enable all government departments to be on the same page on the subject.
With the government in a major damage-control mode, Mukherjee’s top priority is to put a lid on the controversy.