Fearing attempts to drag him into controversies, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar on Monday recused himself from heading the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on telecom, three days after he replaced Pranab Mukherjee in the job.
Pawar, who was to chair the first meeting of the reconstituted EGoM on Monday, first postponed the meeting and then wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recalling how attempts were made to drag him in the controversy surrounding the allocation of 2G spectrum and that it would be appropriate for him to recuse himself from heading the EGoM.
The Prime Minister has agreed to "relieve me from the responsibility of Chairman of EGoM on vacation of spectrum and auction of 3G spectrum and to look into grant of license and allocation of spectrum in 2G band in 22 service areas," he said in a statement.
"I am thankful to the Prime Minister of India for giving me the responsibility of heading the EGoM on vacation of spectrum and auction of 3G spectrum, and to look into the grant of license and allocation of spectrum in 2G band in 22 service areas," he said.
However, he recalled that attempts had been made in the past to drag him in the controversy surrounding the allocation of 2G spectrum.
"These allegation were false and ill-motivated, which I strongly refuted. Neither in the personal capacity nor in the official, I was connected with any of the decision making process in this sector," Pawar said.
"At this juncture, I believe that my association in the decision making process as the Chairman of the EGoM, may further motivate the vested elements to try to drag me in the controversy. As such, I thought it will be appropriate for me to recuse myself from the position of the Chairman of the EGoM on this subject," he said.
The agriculture minister was on Friday named the head of the EGoM after Pranab Mukherjee quit as finance minister to contest Presidential elections.
At the height of the 2G spectrum controversy and when arrests were made in the case, Pawar's name was sought to be linked to DB Group-promoted Swan Telecom, a beneficiary of 2G spectrum allocated by then Telecom Minister A Raja in 2008. The charge was then strongly denied by Pawar.