2G strikes back, heat on Chidambaram to quit
Minister Manmohan Singh away in New York, the phone airwaves case
rocked the government again Thursday, this time over a
six-month-old note of the finance ministry that fell just short of
indicting Home Minister P. Chidambaram, sparking a war of words
between the Congress
New Delhi: The
Congress Friday defended union Home Minister P. Chidambaram as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) asked for his resignation, citing a
finance ministry note to the Prime Minister's Office that he could
have stopped the 2G spectrum sale.
As speculation mounted on the equation between Finance Minister
Pranab Mukherjee and Chidambaram, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has
directed top leaders to put up a joint defence, party insiders
Gandhi, who has recently returned after a surgery abroad, is
learnt to have stepped in to resolve the crisis involving one of
the government's most high-profile ministers.
The controversy surfaced after an RTI answer revealed that the
finance ministry - headed by Mukherjee - had sent a note to the
Prime Minister's Office (PMO) on March 25, 2011, that 2G spectrum
licences would have been auctioned in 2008 if then finance
minister Chidambaram had stood firm on it.
This has led to the opposition asking for Chidambaram's
resignation and speculation that things are not as they should be
between the two ministers.
Meanwhile, the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) investigating
the 2G scam has asked the finance ministry to submit the note
ahead of its meeting Sep 27.
Defending Chidambaram, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said:
"The matter should be left to the wisdom of the Joint
Parliamentary Committee which has representation from all sides of
The BJP, however, said the "culpability" of Chidambaram was
evident in the 2G spectrum scam, and demanded a fair investigation
into his role as the finance minister in allocation of the scarce
spectrum in 2008.
BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government's image
will be further tarnished if it does not order an investigation
into his role.
"Culpability of Chidambaram is evident," he said.
Prasad said he wanted to ask the "great patrons of Chidambaram" in
the government if the minister had abused authority and allowed
some persons to "gain pecuniary advantage without public
Prasad also accused the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) of
double standards in relation to the 2G spectrum probe.
"The CBI is more than keen to question Jaswant Singh (former
finance minister) but is absolutely stonewalling pleas to
investigate Chidambaram despite voluminous evidence," he said.
Calling upon Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to order a probe,
Prasad said not doing so will further tarnish the image of
government at a time when there is pressure from people on cases
"Is your (PM's) confidence in your colleagues more important, or,
a fair, transparent investigation?" Prasad asked, referring to a
statement of Manmohan Singh that Chidambaram enjoyed his
Prasad said that on Nov 22, 2007, then finance secretary D.
Subbarao wrote to his counterpart in the communications ministry
raising concerns that spectrum was being allocated at 2001 prices,
and suggested that either current valuation or indexation should
Chidambaram wrote a letter Jan 15, four days after spectrum
allocation, in which he said auction was the correct way of giving
spectrum but added that his ministry treats the allocations
already made "as a closed chapter", he added.
"If an auction had been done (of 2G spectrum), it would have
fetched at least Rs.35,000 crore," Prasad said.
In its March 25 note to the PMO, the finance ministry says
Chidambaram could have prevented spectrum from being given away at
throwaway prices by insisting on its auction, implying that
presumptive losses worth thousands of crores could have thus been