Chidambaram meets Sonia, offers to quit

Chidambaram meets Sonia, offers to quit

She asks him to wait for PMs return

Chidambaram meets Sonia, offers to quit

In this combo picture, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram (left) arrives at his office after meeting Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee leaves his office to meet Sonia in New Delhi on Monday. PTI

Although what transpired at the meeting was not immediately known, Chidambaram, facing demand for his resignation on his role in 2G scam, was said to have offered to resign. The home minister, however, was upset over the development and reportedly told Gandhi that there was a systematic effort to target him. The note, elicited from the PMO by an RTI activist with BJP leanings, has become a bone of contention between the
two ministers and has come in handy for the Opposition to pillory the government.

The reaction of Gandhi for the resignation offer was not known, but she is said to have told the home minister to wait till prime minister Manmohan Singh returned on Tuesday night. While Chidambaram’s meeting with Congress chief lasted for 20 minutes, Mukherjee met her for 45 minutes.

Immediately after the prime minister lands at 8:30 pm on Tuesday, he is likely to hold a meeting with Gandhi. There is a possibility that it would be a followed by a meeting in which both Chidambaram and Mukherjee would attend.

On Monday, soon after Mukherjee landed at 4 pm from his week-long visit to Washington and New York, he went straight to his North Block office.

There, he is said to have looked into the files related to the 2G scam issues, including the circumstances surrounding the March 25 note. From there, he left for the Janpath residence of Gandhi. By then, Gandhi had completed her meeting with Chidambaram.
While in New York, Mukerjee met the prime minister for nearly an hour on Sunday.

The March 25, 2011, note from the finance ministry to the prime minister’s office, which kicked off a storm, all but held that Chidambaram, finance minister in 2008, could have averted the scam if he had demanded auction in the sale of spectrum. Mukherjee was conciliatory towards his ministerial colleague on his return. “Chidambaram is a valued colleague. He is a pillar of strength (to the government)”, he remarked. He told reporters at the airport that a full-fledged press conference will be held after the prime minister returns.

He later said: “If needed, I will say whatever (I have) to say after the prime minister comes back and after we have discussions among ourselves.”

Chidambaram, on his part, has not interacted with the media on the finance ministry note.

Sources close to Mukherjee said the finance minister told Gandhi that the note had come into public domain due to information provided by the PMO to a right to information (RTI) query. He is also learnt to have told her that the draft note was prepared following a series of official meetings.

That Gandhi chose to meet the two senior-most ministers separately and not together indicated to the chasm and  serious differences between the two.

Both Mukherjee and Chidambaram are party heavyweights in charge of crucial portfolios and members of the Congress core committee which deliberates on all vital decisions concerning the government.

There could be more problems for the government and in particular, the home minister.

The main accused in the 2G scam, former telecom minister A Raja, now spending his days in jail, told the trial court that Chidambaram should be summoned and examined as a witness to prove the minutes of a Cabinet meeting that cleared the off-loading of shares by Swan Telecom and Unitech to two foreign firms.

Tuesday would be crucial for the government and the home minister as the Supreme Court will resume hearing on original petitioner Subramanian Swamy’s application seeking direction to include Chidambaram in the CBI probe.

In case the apex court directs the CBI to involve the home minister, Chidambaram would be forced to resign.

Immediately, a question mark would hang over the larger involvement of the entire cabinet including the prime minister, in the 2G issue.

Senior advocates P P Rao and K K Venugopal will argue for the government (Chidambaram) and the CBI, respectively.