Kolkata: Averring that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had "on his own" offered to appear before parliament`s Public Accounts Committee which is looking into the 2G spectrum issue, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday said he would have advised him against it had Manmohan Singh sought his opinion.
However, later in the day, Mukherjee ruled out any rift between him and the Prime Minister on the subject, and lambasted the media for not understanding what he said.
Speaking at a meeting of West Bengal state Congress functionaries here, Mukherjee referred to Manmohan Singh`s December 20 offer and said: "The Prime Minister declared this on his own, without consulting any of us. However, had he consulted us, I would have advised him on the contrary. Because I am conservative".
"I believe in following parliamentary norms. Why don`t ministers appear before such parliamentary committees? The reason is very simple. Because a minister is accountable to the Lok Sabha, (or in the state) to the Assembly.
"In the Lok Sabha, he is accountable to 543 members... He has become minister because out of 543 Lok Sabha members, at least 272 members support his party, they support the Prime Minister. His accountability is to the entire House, not a part of the House," said Mukherjee.
However, as the Congress heavyweight`s comments led to media interpretation of differences cropping up between the two leaders, Mukherjee rubbished such speculation at a media conference in the afternoon.
"Parliamentary committee is a part. The big thing is the house. The ministers are accountable to the house and not to any part. On that issue I said that the prime minister expressed his wish to appear before the PAC only to resolve the deadlock.
"This is not a rift between the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister. Those who cover parliament, they know there are many issues related to it," he said.
"It was an example. It is not a rift. If a journalist doesn`t understand this example then he or she should leave journalism," said Mukherjee.
Last month, the Prime Minister had said at the Congress plenary that he was making an "unprecedented" offer to appear before the PAC which is going into the 2G scam, based on the Comptroller and Auditor General`s report on the issue.
But the Prime Minister`s offer has not cut much ice with the Bharatiya Janata Party which - along with the left parties - is demanding a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the 2G spectrum allocation.