New Delhi: Back from the US, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday met Congress president Sonia Gandhi amidst a raging controversy over the Finance Ministry’s note on the role of Home Minister P Chidambaram in the allocation of 2G spectrum.
According to sources, the Finance Minister briefed Sonia Gandhi about his meeting with the Prime Minister in New York and about the happenings of the last few days. He is also reported to have clarified his ministry’s role in 2G spectrum note controversy involving Chidambaram.
The meeting with the Congress president lasted for about an hour.
Just before meeting the Congress president, Mukherjee reiterated that Chidambaram is a ‘valued colleague’ and a ‘pillar of strength’ for the party. However post-meeting he refused to make any comment.
Meanwhile, in a related event Chidambaram also met the Congress president this evening amidst speculation that he had offered to quit. But top Congress sources said that there was no merit in the reports. The Home Minister had reportedly offered to resign earlier too when the PM spoke to him over phone from Frankfurt on way to the US last week.
Nonetheless, the beleaguered Home Minster has steadfastly refused to comment on one of the toughest crisis the Congress is facing at the moment, till the Prime Minister is back.
Earlier, when asked for his remarks on the matter upon his arrival in the country, Mukherjee said that he would comment on the issue only after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh returns from the US. The Prime Minister is scheduled to return to the country on Tuesday.
Mukherjee had met Singh in New York yesterday for an hour. Reports suggested that the Finance Minister handed over all the documents related to the 2G spectrum allocation to Singh during the meet.
It was also learnt that Mukherjee told the Prime Minister that the 2G note was released by the PMO and not his office.
Talking to reporters after an hour-long meeting with the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister had refused to speak on the 2G issue.
"I am sorry. I cannot make any comment on it,” the Finance Minister said while being asked by reporters on the 2G note. “The matter is sub-judice. I am not here to satisfy your infinite inquisitiveness,” he said.
“Why should I comment on domestic issues outside India…I am not a fugitive,” he said.
The Congress has been totally backing the Home Minister ever since the controversy broke out. While Sonia Gandhi had issued a dictum to her party colleagues to fully back Chidambaram, the Prime Minister had categorically stated on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly that the Home Minister “enjoyed his confidence”.
The Finance Ministry note has brought to the fore the oft spoken rift between Pranab Mukherjee and P Chidambaram. As per reports this has upset the UPA chairperson so much so that she decided to hold two-high profile meetings on the same day, in a desperate move at damage control.
The Opposition has latched on to the issue asking for Chidambaram’s resignation. Senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, in a hard-hitting statement, had said on Saturday that the Home Minister’s “place was in Tihar Jail”.
On his part, the Prime Minister had earlier rejected the Opposition’s demand for the resignation of Chidambaram over the 2G issue and made it clear that he would defend all his Cabinet colleagues.
Meanwhile, Janata Party chief Subramanium Swamy has said that he can produce documents to show that former Telecom Minister, A Raja acted on the advice of P Chidambaram.