The Bharatiya Janata Party has asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to explain the basis of his confidence in Home Minister P. Chidambaram without going into the merits of the latest revelations on the alleged role of the Minister in 2G spectrum licence allocation when he was Finance Minister.
At a press conference here on Friday, BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad referred to the much talked- about note sent by the Finance Ministry to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) in March, which pointed out that had Mr. Chidambaram (who was Finance Minister at that time) ‘stuck to his guns' 2G licences would have been auctioned in 2008 and not sold at the prices determined in 2001.
The note has acquired significance as it was shown to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. Though the Congress and the Prime Minister rallied behind Mr. Chidambaram, Mr. Mukherjee, now in Washington, has declined to comment, stating that the matter is sub judice.
Mr. Prasad said, “Why does the government have a compulsion to shield Mr. Chidambaram despite the note of dissent by the No 2 in the government? Is the compulsion to shield Mr. Chidambaram in spite of the Ministry's note to prevent the ambers of the 2G scam from reaching the PMO?”
The BJP wanted to know if Dr. Singh's confidence in Mr. Chidambaram was more important than a ‘fair, impartial and transparent' probe into the “worst scam in independent India.”
Mr. Prasad pointed out that Dr. Singh had given a clean chit twice to the former Telecom Minister, A. Raja, who was now in Tihar jail, when his name first surfaced in the 2G scam. “Is the same story going to repeat itself in the case of P. Chidambaram?”
He wanted to know at whose behest the note by the Finance Ministry was prepared and asked if the PMO had sought the note then why there was no follow-up action.
He also referred to a report published in The Hindu on the secret note sent by Mr. Mukherjee to Dr. Singh in 2007, expressing serious reservations about the policy of allotting licences at the prices fixed in 2001 and claimed that it clearly proved that the Prime Minister was fully aware of the issue.
“Skeletons are fighting skeletons and rocking the boat of the UPA. How long will you keep quiet, Mr. Prime Minister? Mr. Prasad said. The government could not get away by saying this new development was also due to coalition politics as the “expose” had come from the Finance Ministry led by Mr. Mukherjee, who is number 2 in the Cabinet.