PC under fire in LS; says charge wild, reckless

The controversy over the Aircel- Maxis deal on Thursday erupted in Parliament with the Opposition dubbing it as a big scam.

New Delhi: The controversy over the Aircel- Maxis deal on Thursday erupted in Parliament with the Opposition dubbing it as a big scam and demanding P Chidambaram`s resignation but the Home Minister dismissed charges saying that neither he nor any member of his family was involved.

The Lok Sabha saw a surcharged atmosphere with BJP leader Yashwant Sinha training his guns on Chidambaram during Zero Hour and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee getting angry at the Opposition. The ensuing turmoil led to two adjournments and a regret later by Mukherjee for losing his cool.

Amid vociferous chants against him by the Opposition, including AIADMK, which was demanding his resignation, Chidambaram read out a statement issued by his son, Karthi in Chennai saying "I wish to read that statement as part of my statement."

"I have learnt that Yashwant Sinha, made a statement today in the Lok Sabha to the effect that I have acquired and hold five per cent of equity in a telecom company by name Aircel. I categorically state that neither I nor any member of my family have acquired or hold any share in any telecom company.

"In particular, I categorically state that neither I nor any member of my family have acquired or hold any share in either Aircel or Maxis," the Home Minister said.

In an obvious reference to Subramanian Swamy, he said the statement was first made by a "person who is known to indulge in making wild and reckless allegations".

It was for the second time this week that the issue was raised in Parliament.

Sinha said, "Prima facie, what has happened is a big scam and government should not hush it up" as the Rs 4,000 crore deal has raised several serious questions and has led to a major controversy.

He wanted a statement from Mukherjee, who is the Leader of the House as also the Finance Minister.

Objecting to the manner in which the issue was raised by
Sinha without giving any notice, Chidambaram invoked Jesus Christ saying, "God, forgive them for they know not what they do. I pray that God will forgive the sins of these people."

Without naming Chidambaram, who was the Finance Minister in 2006 when the deal took place, Sinha earlier alleged that the minister had not recused himself when the matter came up before the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) of which he was the head.

Amid cries of `shame, shame`, Sinha said there was a conflict of interest as Chidambaram`s son had allegedly bought 5 per cent shares.

He wondered as to how Maxis could buy 99.3 percent of the shares of Aircel when the rules permit that a foreign equity cannot exceed 74 percent.

Chidambaram said it was unfortunate that "the same allegation should be repeated in Parliament by an MP...It is deeply regretted that the privileged forum of Parliament is misused to make wild and reckless allegations against a private citizen."

While he spoke, BJP as also AIADMK members stormed the Well and raised slogans.

Sinha was seen asking under what rule Chidambaram was making the statement in the House. The Home Minister said he was making the statement as a member had levelled allegations "against me and a member of my family".

The turmoil over the issue is likely to continue with BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain saying that it would demand clarification from the Finance Minister on the government stand over the issue as the statement made by Chidambaram was a "personal" one.

Sinha lamented that it was strange that he was not allowed to raise the matter in Parliament but the Finance Ministry issued a press statement denying some reports on it.

At the AICC briefing, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari
questioned the motive of BJP in raising the issue in Parliament when Sinha is already a member of the JPC examining the entire gamut of the 2G issue.

"If they had any concrete evidence, they could have brought before the JPC instead of trying to create sensation in Parliament...BJP will not be happy with any clarification because they want to do politics..."They should really reflect on the propriety of raising the issue in Parliament, when the issue is before the JPC... Government and Home Minister have given a detailed rebuttal. They have rebutted every allegation," he said in response to a volley of questions on the issue.

Tewari gave a terse response to BJP spokesperson Hussain`s remark, "we would like to know Chidambaram`s definition of a family. We wish to know if Karthi is his son or not".

He said that if the BJP wanted to know the definition of the words, they should consult dictionaries.