Stepping up pressure on the United Progressive Alliance government, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Friday demanded the resignation of Home Minister P. Chidambaram for his alleged role in the 2G spectrum case.
Refusing to accept the argument that the remarks on Mr. Chidambaram in the March 25 Finance Ministry office memorandum to the PMO was that of a single officer, the CPI(M) Polit Bureau said: “The explanation provided by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee that it is an inter-ministerial note prepared with inputs from various Ministries and coordinated by the Cabinet Secretary only underlines the authoritative nature of the conclusions that have been drawn. It is not the work of any single officer or Ministry. Therefore, Chidambaram has to take responsibility for his action. The Polit Bureau demands that he resign from the Union Cabinet.”
Rejecting Mr. Chidambaram's statement that in the light of Mr. Mukherjee's clarification the matter stood closed, CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat said the issue was still alive since the office memorandum forwarded by the Finance Ministry to the Prime Minister's Office spelt out the role played at that time by Mr. Chidambaram in going with the action of the then Communications Minister, A. Raja.
“We are afraid it [the issue] is not closed. We can sympathise with the onerous and odious task of Mr. Mukherjee to rescue his Cabinet colleague…the matter is not closed and the issue is very much alive. Mr. Chidambaram should step down,” Mr. Karat said, briefing correspondents at the end of the two-day Polit Bureau deliberations.
The Polit Bureau maintained that despite the “obfuscation” by the government, the issue was that Mr. Chidambaram had given the “green signal” for a policy which led to a massive loss to the state exchequer. “This is despite his Ministry earlier objecting to the first-come first-served policy and the entry fee being retained at the 2001 rate.”
It said the recent period had once again highlighted the high-level corruption which had engulfed the UPA since its inception in 2004. Apart from the unfolding 2G spectrum scandal, the CAG reports on the KG basin contract and the Air India mismanagement reinforced the image of a “totally corrupt government in the eyes of the people.”
Mr. Karat said the Polit Bureau also strongly condemned the Central government for the petrol price hike that stoked inflation as there was no let-up in food prices. The government's “callous attitude” found reflection in the Planning Commission suggesting Rs. 25 and Rs. 32 as poverty line limit in rural and urban areas. Demanding that the cap imposed by such “fraudulent basis” for dividing the population into BPL (below poverty line) and APL (above poverty line) be abandoned, he said the limit imposed on the number of people below the poverty line must scrapped.
The party termed the proposed rath yatra by BJP leader L.K. Advani against corruption both “surprising and ironical.” Mr. Karat said: “The BJP has to answer for its record of corruption during the NDA government — starting from the Tehelka tape expose of defence purchases to the sanction of petrol pumps and gas agencies. The BJP is also accountable for the brazen corruption under its State government in Karnataka.”
The party, he said, would undertake a countrywide campaign and protest movements from November 1 to 7 on five issues — curb price rise, firm action on all corruption cases and adopt an effective Lok Pal Bill; ensure supply of fertilizers at subsidised prices to farmers; steps to curb unemployment; and stop FDI in the retail sector.