2G issue: I defend all my ministers, says PM (Lead)

September 25th, 2011 - 12:26 am ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram New York, Sep 23 (IANS) Amid a raging storm back home over a finance ministry note on the role of Home Minister P. Chidambaram in the allocation of 2G spectrum, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday said he defended all his ministers.

“I defend all my ministers. The opposition’s job is to criticise,” he told reporters as he came out of a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the UN General assembly session.

Manmohan Singh confirmed that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee is coming here Saturday night from Washington to meet him, but suggested he was “coming to brief me on various issues since there are problems in all parts of the world” and not specifically about the 2G issue.

Mukherjee, who is expected to meet Manmohan Singh Sunday, told a group of Indian journalists in Washington Friday that he will speak on the issue only when he reaches India Monday.

“I told you that my question is only addressed to that (2G). What is to be told there, I will tell it there (in India), not now,” he said.

He is expected to fly to New York and stay in the same hotel as that of the prime minister after fulfilling all his engagements in Washington, where he is attending the World Bank and IMF meetings, officials said.

Mukherjee, who is attending these meetings over the weekend, was scheduled to fly back home Sunday, but changed his plans in view of the controversy, according to diplomatic sources.

In New York, Mukherjee had Wednesday acknowledged the existence of the March note that said the airwaves could have been auctioned in 2008 if Chidambaram, then the finance minister, had “stuck to his stand”.

He, however, avoided direct comment on the note from his ministry, saying the matter was sub judice.

In the note, the finance ministry says Chidambaram, one of the government’s most high-profile ministers, could have prevented spectrum from being given away at throwaway prices by insisting on its auction — implying that presumptive losses worth thousands of crores could have thus been avoided.

The note, which was apparently shown to Mukherjee and accessed by an application under the Right to Information Act, was prepared by a deputy secretary in the finance ministry and sent to the Prime Minister’s Office March 25.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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