Pranab claims that the "inferences and interpretations" in the inter-ministerial background paper do not reflect his views
In the full blaze of television cameras, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister P. Chidambaram buried the hatchet on Thursday.
Standing on the steps of the North Block — which they jointly preside over — a glum Mr. Mukherjee read out from a brief prepared statement, stressing that the “inferences and interpretations” in the inter-ministerial background paper on the 2G spectrum allocation issue did not reflect his views. Seconds later, a grim Mr. Chidambaram stepped up to say he was “happy” with the statement made by his “senior and distinguished colleague.”
Adding to the optics of solidarity and unity, Cabinet colleagues, Kapil Sibal and Salman Khurshid, stood behind the unhappy duo.
The truce between the two apparently warring Ministers came at the end of a day of high-level confabulations, with Congress president Sonia Gandhi taking the lead in resolving the situation. Party sources said she made it clear that she did not want the issue to fester any longer — the sight of a government at war with itself was causing it incalculable damage. A public explanation about the Finance Ministry's Office Memorandum (March 25, 2011) was imperative; it was not enough for un-sourced clarifications on the provenance of the note to appear in the media.
In the morning, Ms. Gandhi first met Defence Minister A.K. Antony, and then Mr. Mukherjee — her political secretary Ahmed Patel was in attendance. In the evening, Mr. Chidambaram and Mr. Mukherjee drove to 7 Race Course Road to confer with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, shortly after he returned from the earthquake-struck Sikkim. Dr. Singh's Principal Secretary T.K.A. Nair was also present. At 6 p.m. came the joint photo-op by Messrs Mukherjee and Chidambaram. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Gandhi drove to 7 Race Course Road to meet the Prime Minister.
With Mr. Mukherjee's explanation, the CBI stepping up its defence of Mr. Chidambaram's role in the 2G spectrum allocation in the Supreme Court on Thursday — stressing that he alone could not have blocked the licence route being adopted — and the next hearing scheduled for October 10, the Home Minister appears to have got a reprieve. But Congress sources said this episode had left both Ministers bruised — and this may not be the end of the story.