Truce may not hold

Truce may not hold

The UPA government bought peace between Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister P Chidambaram through a statement made by the former, clearing the latter of any role in the 2G scam. But the last word is yet to be pronounced as the Supreme Court – the final arbiter – will resume hearing on October 10.

The court will hear the arguments related to the application by Subramanian Swamy to include the then finance minister (Chidambaram) in the CBI probe into the 2G scam. Thus, the peace brokered by Congress president Sonia Gandhi through a series of meetings on Thursday could turn out to be fragile.

The case has assumed prominence in the wake of a finance ministry office memorandum, which suggested that Chidambaram, as the finance minister in 2008, did not press for auction in the sale of spectrum allocation.

The subsequent statement of Mukherjee, clearing Chidambaram, raises more questions than it answers. By saying that “...apart from factual background (there were) certain inferences which do not reflect my views...”, the finance minister has not just distanced himself from the controversial document that originated in his ministry but also shifted the responsibility on to the officials who prepared the office memorandum.

The covering note to the March 25 document, signed by a deputy director of the finance ministry, clearly states, “A copy of basic facts prepared on allocation and pricing of 2G spectrum is enclosed. This has been seen by the finance minister.” How can the minister then disassociate himself from the note, that too selectively?

Strange acceptance

Also, if it was not his inference, then whose inference was it? The minister is silent on this score. According to many observers, it looked strange when Chidambaram said that he “accepted the statement” of the finance minister.

“It looked more like an attempt to massage one’s bruised ego,” said a political analyst. He added: “ I have never heard a minister saying he was accepting the statement of his colleague. Did Mukherjee commit any crime for Chidambaram to say he was accepting the statement?” the analyst asked.

Mukherjee and Chidambaram are known to have had differences for long and the gap has been widening. During the recent abortive discussion to persuade social activist and Gandhian Anna Hazare to call off his hunger strike against corruption in high places, the finance minister, known for his trouble shooting skills, kept away from the talks, leaving the field to Chidambaram.

When the latter failed, the mantle to bring about a truce fell on Mukherjee, which he achieved through that final speech in Parliament recently.

He minister was said to have been upset when cameras hidden in chewing gum were found in his office. Questions were raised about the brain behind the operation.

It was Chidambaram’s turn to get angry when the office memorandum went public. He  has maintained he always opted for the auction route in spectrum allocation.

Pranab’s change of tack

11:30 am – Defence Minister A K Antony and party leader Ahmed Patel meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi at 10 Janpath.
12:50 pm – Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee meets Congress president Sonia Gandhi at 10 Janpath.
05:16 pm – Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister P Chidambaram meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his 7 Race Course residence.
06:03 pm - Home Minister P Chidambaram reaches North Block office of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
06:16 pm – Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee issues statement saying that 2G spectrum note does not reflect his views. Home Minister P Chidamabaram, Law Minister Salman Khurshid and Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal also present.
07:30 pm – Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.