After meeting Singh, FM stonewalls queries

Pranabs stance indicates he is unwilling to bail out embattled PC

After meeting Singh, FM stonewalls queries

“Why should I make comment on a domestic political issue at a time when I am on a foreign tour? Besides, the matter is sub judice and I will have to consult the home minister, who is a valued colleague, law minister and other colleagues in the Union Cabinet as well as in the party in New Delhi before making any comment,” Mukherjee told journalists after meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here.

The finance minister’s no-nonsense tone is in stark difference to that his party colleagues adopted early this week when they defended Chidambaram in the immediate aftermath of a note a controversial note from the Ministry of Finance to the Prime Minister’s office was submitted to the Supreme Court last Wednesday.

It said the telecom ministry would have gone for auction for allocation of 2G spectrum licences in 2007, had Chidambaram, who had held the finance portfolio then, insisted. It was apparently seen by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee before it was sent to an official in the PMO.

The finance minister reached New York from Washington early on Sunday. He was in Washington to attend the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank as well as an India-US CEOs’ conference.

The Prime Minister came to New York last Thursday to attend the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly and is set to return to New Delhi on Tuesday, after an overnight stopover in Frankfurt on Monday.

Though speculation was rife about possibility of the Prime Minister and Finance Minister discussing the raging political controversy over Chidambaram’s role in the 2-G spectrum allocation, Mukherjee said that he had only briefed Singh about his meetings with his counterparts from US and other countries as well as American CEOs in Washington.

Mukherjee rubbished reports that he had cut short his visit to Washington and rushed to New York to the meet the Prime Minister in the wake of the controversy over the note, which apparently cast a shadow on Chidambaram’s role in 2-G allocations in 2007.

“I have finished all my engagements including bilateral meetings with some of my counterparts in other countries before taking the late night flight from Washington to reach New York,” he said. He said he had advanced his travel from Washington to New York as he wanted to brief the Prime Minister about the concerns of the US investors on certain issues.

“Immediately after reaching New Delhi, I am going to Kolkata for a few days’ break on the occasion of Durga Puja and, that is why, I wanted to meet Prime Minister here so that we can expedite actions on the pending reforms in the pension, banking and insurance sectors in order to get the relevant legislations passed during winter session of Parliament,” said the Finance Minister.

The revelation of the note put the already beleaguered Congress-led UPA Government in fresh trouble, with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party immediately calling for resignation of Chidambaram as Home Minister.

It also triggered speculation of a rift between Chidambaram and Mukherjee, who is believed to be the unofficial No 2 in the Union Cabinet headed by Singh.

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