Thursday, September 22, 2011

2G turmoil: PM backs Chidambaram

New York/New Delhi, Sept 22 (IBNS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday said there was no discord in the union cabinet over the 2G controversy and he backed Union Home Minister P Chidambaram whose name was dragged into the turmoil following the publication of an adverse note okayed by Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

The Prime Minister, now in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly, was quoted in media from USA denying reports of infighting in the cabinet even as Chidambaram said on Thursday he would speak on the issue after the Prime Minister returned from New York. 

The PM also said that since the 2G matter is subjudice he would not comment on it now. 

Amid clamour for his resignation by the Opposition, Chidambaram issued a statement saying: "Friends from the media have asked me why I remain silent. 

"As reported in the media, the Prime Minister called me last night from Frankfurt and spoke to me," he said. 

"The Finance Minister called me from Washington and spoke to me. I have assured the Prime Minister that I shall not make any public statement on the subject until he returns to India." 

The 2G scam debate took a new dramatic turn where the ruling Congress is now apparently pitted against itself after a controversial note of March 2011 okayed by Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee dragged Union Home Minister P Chidambaram into the controversy. 

The note of controversy that was sent by Mukherjee´s department to the Prime Minister had said that Chidambaram as then finance minister (2008) when the spectrums were allocated could have prevented the scam by sticking to a policy of auction of spectrums as against the decision of a first-come-first-serve basis policy by then telecom minister and now jailed DMK lawmaker A Raja.

Pranab Mukherjee had okayed the note (a 14-page document) sent this March by the Deputy Director in the Finance Ministry PGS Rao to Joint Secretary in the PMO Vini Mahajan on 2G spectrum and pricing. 

RTI activist Vivek Garg has obtained the note now, triggering the latest controversy.

Earlier, the BJP and AIADMK said Union Home Minister P Chidambaram should resign over the latest developments on the 2G scam or he should be removed by the Prime Minister, even as an emboldened DMK said they stood vindicated on the issue. 

Congress has defended Chidambaram and tried to put up a united face.

"Mr Chidambaram is deeply involved in the 2G scam. He should immediately resign or the prime minister should remove him," said the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) supremo, soon after the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demanded the resignation of Chidambaram. 

Chidambaram, who was in Sikkim overseeing quake relief, had refused to comment but later issued the brief statement. 

Turning the 2G heat again on the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, the BJP said Chidambaram should resign from the government.

"Either he should resign himself or he should be dismissed, said BJP senior leader Murli Manohar Joshi. 

He said even the Prime Minister was misled on the 2G issue. 

Joshi said the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) must take up the case against Chidambaram. 

"I want to know why the CBI did not act yet against Chidambaram," said Joshi. 

BJP senior leader Arun Jaitley said the government is facing a kind of civil war situation with its own ministers now against each other. 

BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said: "Today the voice of dissent is coming from within the government and Chidambaram has a lot to explain."
Pranab Mukherjee, who is now in New York to attend a US-India investors´ meet, said he would not make any remark on the note since the matter is now subjudice. 

"The whole matter is under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court of India. We cannot make any comment on any matter that is subjudice," Mukherjee said.

But Joshi said Pranab Mukherjee must comment since the note of his ministry is not subjudice. 

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) , the discredited partner of the Congress in the UPA over the 2G scam, is happy with the latest development as it said that 2G spectrum allocation was a policy decision of the government and it proves that Raja had not violated the directives of the Prime Minister or Finance Minister.

"We are vindicated and it has come as a big relief," DMK leader Khushboo said, adding that Raja always maintained that he had not taken any bribe. 

Later DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi said said Raja had always maintained that the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister were in the loop in the 2G licencing policy. 

Karunanidhi said it is for Chidambaram to decide on resigning if he is found guilty, according to TV reports. 

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the party was united and behind Chidambaram. 

"The party does not doubt Chidambaram´s integrity and it is now not right to pass judgement on the sub judice issue. We do not, in any manner, accept the allegation made by Subramanian Swamy against him (Chidambaram)," said Singhvi.

"The party does not doubt his integrity. This precise issue has been raised by Dr Swamy in the apex court and is sub judice," Singhvi said speaking to a TV channel. 

There is a mischievous attempt, he said. 

He said any division in the party on the 2G issue is a figment of imagination of the media. 

DMK leaders like A Raja and Kanimozhi are languishing in jail for several months in the 2G case. 

Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), the auditors of the government, has pegged the 2G allocation loss to the government at around Rs 1.76 lakh crore, making it the biggest financial corruption case in independent India.


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