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2G: ‘Pranab, Chidambaram had a working difference`

Salman Khurshid has defended P Chidambaram on the first come first serve policy for issuing spectrum licences.



New Delhi: Admitting that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and P Chidambaram had a "working difference" on the controversial 2G note issue, Law Minister Salman
Khurshid has defended the Home Minister on the first come first serve policy for issuing spectrum licences saying he could not have changed a Cabinet decision.

"...Mr Chidambaram, even after the Cabinet decision, continued to argue for auction," Khurshid said, adding that Chidambaram, who was then Finance Minister, could not change the policy as it was a Cabinet decision.

"Could Chidambaram alone have overturned the Cabinet decision? What was the other way for market determination once the Cabinet had decided against auction," he said in an interview to a private channel.

Khurshid said when there is a disagreement between a large number of ministers and one minister, or between two ministers in the context of a decision taken by the Cabinet, "there is a point at which you have to say okay thus far and no further".

"Chidambaram said whatever you have done uptil now based on Cabinet decision, henceforth, the additional spectrum required - it will be required - must be done on a different context," he said defending Chidambaram.

Khurshid scoffed at claims of BJP leader Arun Jaitley that under Section 13 (i) (d) (ii) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, Chidambaram was guilty of giving an unwarranted pecuniary advantage to licence allottees.

"There was an inference drawn in that... it was the author`s inference. It was unwarranted and, therefore, it is an orphaned inference," Khurshid said.

He said the inference does not reflect views of officers from various ministries.

Khurshid claimed that today India has the largest coverage in the world with the lowest tariff.

"So if that was our policy, we succeeded. Chidambaram and UPA-I is today being pilloried for successful implementation of a policy, because one of our ministers in the implementation process might have made some mistakes and the court is going to judge," he said.

The Minister said the 2001 decision to give spectrum at a particular price was taken by "Mr Jaitley`s government”. For further licences to be given, the decision was taken in 2003 by the NDA government.

"All we did was... we took a conscious decision, the Cabinet, not Mr Raja, not Mr Chidambaram, took a conscious decision to follow the 2003 Cabinet decision and continue with first come, first serve," he said.

Replying to a series of questions on the March 25 note which suggested that Chidambaram could have insisted on auctioning 2G spectrum, Khurshid said a summary was needed and everyone had to be on board with one clear articulation and, therefore, whoever knew anything had to provide input.

He said senior officials from different ministries provided inputs but a junior official of the Finance Ministry was compiling it. "There was an inference drawn in that... it was the author`s inference. It was unwarranted and, therefore, it is an orphaned inference," Khurshid said.

He said the inference does not reflect views of officers from various ministries.

When asked that Mukherjee only said the note does not reflect his views but he did not say he disagrees with it, Khurshid said this is the only way one can say "these are not
my views".

"If they are not your views, you don`t agree with them...This is the practical language we use in everyday life, particularly in Indian politics...," he said.

The Law Minister indicated that Congress president Sonia Gandhi wanted the controversy to end at the earliest.

He said Gandhi "certainly desired" that the press should not make a meal out of something "that may be like a working difference, disagreement you have in daily working”. Such issues should not be projected as a clash of egos or confrontation between two major ministers, he said.

On the issue of reported `differences` between Mukherjee and Chidambaram, he said there were no vast differences between the two.

"While Pranab Mukherjee was not in India, the media put it out that there was a major difference. There never was a difference. There was a disagreement that was projected because of that one or three lines that somehow put a question mark on Mr Chidambaram.”

"We all said then it was wrong. Pranab Mukherjee came back and said it was wrong. It was not his view and that was the end of the matter," he said.

He claimed that the two ministers are the best of friends. "I have seen them in the Cabinet thereafter. They are the best of friends. They rely and lean upon each other tremendously. They are pillars of strength to our government."

PTI

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