Pranab meets PM, refuses comment on 2G note on foreign soil
PM Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had an hour-long meeting in New York on Sunday to sort out issues after which Mukherjee said he would have to take 'expert opinon' on the finance ministry note that made some controversial comments about P Chidambaram.
New York: In an unusual meeting on foreign soil forced by the raging 2G controversy back home, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had an hour-long meeting here today to sort out different issues.
After the meeting, Mukherjee said he would have to take "expert opinon" on the finance ministry note that made some controversial comments about P Chidambaram.
At a press conference after the meeting, Mukherjee called Chidambaram "our valued colleague" but made it clear that he would make any comments on the issue only after he talks to the Home Minister, Law Minister Salman Khurshid and other party leaders.
Mukherjee said he had to go through all the papers and find out what is the legal implication of it.
Advancing his arrival here from Washington after completing all official engagements there, Mukherjee met the Prime Minister at the New York Palace Hotel and snapped at a reporter who tried to seek details, notwithstanding his caveat that he would not not be commenting on a domestic issue on foreign soil.
"Why should I make comments on domestic issues outside India. I am not a fugitive. I am not leaving the country for all time to come. I know you have infinite inquisitiveness. I am not here to satisfy your infinite inquisitiveness," he said.
"I have to go through all the papers. What is the legal implication of it has to be found out," Mukherjee said.
The meeting comes against the backdrop of a raging controversy back home after the surfacing of a finance ministry note through the RTI which had said that the 2G spectrum allocation scam could have been avoided if Chidambaram as finance minister had insisted on auctions and seen that spectrum was not sold at 2001 price.
While the Prime Minister had defended Chidambaram and said all ministers had his confidence, the Home Minister had refused to make any public comments saying he would await the arrival of both the leaders from the US.
The Opposition parties have been gunning for Chidambaram ever since the finance ministry note was presented to the Supreme Court in a case related to 2G issue during the week.
After the meeting with the prime minister, Mukherjee said he could not make any comments because for the simple reason that it was newspaper clippings on which he had no information.
Mukherjee said: "I have no information and there I find it is a matter which has been produced...a piece of paper, a note from the Finance Ministry to PMO has been obtained through RTI and placed in court."
"Unless I talk to the Law Minister, P Chidambaram, who is our valued colleague, and other party leaders, go through all the relevant papers what comment I will make," he said adding he agreed to meet the journalists this morning as a matter of courtesy.
"What is permissible for me is to say that the matter is sub judice. I am not a lawyer. I will have to take expert opinion on it to make any comment. It would not be proper on my part to make any comment on it. Sorry, I am not going to give you any earthshaking information. Sorry, I can't go beyond this," he said.
Asked about the Opposition parties raking up the 2G issue, Mukherjee sought to downplay it saying "of course it is their job. What else the Opposition will do".
"We have seen a lot of such ruckus.....like the raid of Indira Gandhi's farmhouse. We will have to live with it. It happens sometimes," he said.
Mukherjee, who was in Washington for IMF and World Bank meetings, said he has not cut short his visit nor cancelled any of his meetings. "I spent almost one hour with him (Prime Minister)," the Minister said adding that he had briefed Singh on his interactions with leaders from America and Europe.
The Finance Minister, who will return to Delhi tomorrow, said he would be leaving for Kolkata soon after and hence he wanted to brief the Prime Minister.
Mukherjee said he had wished the Prime Minister for his birthday tomorrow and presented a bouquet.
Ever since the Finance Ministry note surfaced, the Opposition parties have been baying for Chidambaram's blood. On Thursday, the Prime Minister had fully backed Chidambaram and ruled out any infighting among the ministers.
"I don't know what note you are talking about. The whole 2G matter is before the court. I don't want to comment on a matter that is sub judice", he had told journalists accompanying him from Frankfurt to New York.
"As far as Mr P Chidambaram is concerned, as Finance Minister, he had enjoyed my full confidence and as Home Minister he continues to enjoy and inspire my full confidence," he had said.
Asked whether he will back Mukherjee like Chidambaram, Singh had replied,"Of course all my ministers. They are I think ministers who enjoy my confidence in full."