Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had indeed clarified that the note in March on second generation (2G) spectrum allocation, which became a matter of much controversy, was actually written at the behest of the Prime Minister’s Office, senior government officials confirmed Tuesday.
Senior officials in North Block said Mukherjee had informed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New York in September that he would look into the matter when he returns to India and followed that up with a formal letter.
‘The finance minister had put on record that the note was sent since some official from the Prime Minister’s Office kept insisting for it,’ a senior official in the Finance Ministry told IANS, requesting anonymity.
The letter also pointed out that the entire exercise of preparing and sending a formal mote on 2G note was initiated by the cabinet secretary in January 2011 and the finance ministry’s point of view was formalised by the Department of Economic Affairs.
‘The prime minister was also told that neither he (finance minister) nor his ministry had dispatched the note on their own,’ the official said, adding: ‘The finance minister wrote the letter soon after he met the prime minister in New York.’
This apart, the finance minister also said his ministry was not in favour of dispatching a formal letter, but relented only after ‘persistent’ calls by a joint secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office.
The note in March, sent to the Prime Minister’s Office, had suggested that spectrum, a scarce resource, could have been auctioned instead of being allocated had it been insisted upon by Home Minister P. Chidambaram, who was holding the finance portfolio then.
The note came into the public domain by way of a plea under the Right to Information Act, following which Chidambaram came under attack. The opposition even asked him to quit, which also led to some friction between him and Mukherjee.
A hurt Chidambaram had also reportedly offered to resign.
But at the behest of Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi and the prime minister, both Mukherjee and Chidambaram said the matter had been settled.
In the letter which Mukherjee wrote thereafter after studying the sequence of events regarding the drafting of the note, he informed the Prime Minister that the entire exercise was initiated at the behest of the cabinet secretary in January 2011.
Mukherjee said that after the note was formalised by the department of economic affairs, he was not in favour of sending it as a formal office memorandum, but had to do so on the insistence of a joint secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office.