Chidambaram meets Sonia Gandhi; offers to resign over 2G note row

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NEW DELHI, September 26 (agencies): Union home minister P Chidambaram has offered to resign during his meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Monday to discuss the 2G note sent by the finance ministry to the Prime Minister`s Office.

In the meeting, which lasted for about 20 minutes, Chidambaram explained his point of view on the 2G spectrum allocation issue and reportedly told Sonia that he does not want to embarrass the party.

Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee also met Sonia at 10 Janpath to discuss the 2G note.

“He is a valued colleague and pillar of strength to this government,” Mukherjee said about Chidambaram before going to meet Sonia.

Chidambaram also cancelled his Tuesday`s visit to Orissa after meeting Sonia.

An official finance ministry document, accessed by RTI activist Vivek Garg, has cast doubts over the role of Chidambaram, who was then finance minister, in the January 2008 decision of former telecom minister A Raja to issue 2G spectrum licences.

Mukherjee has, however, blamed the Prime Minister`s Office for leaking the controversial 2G note, and will meet Sonia on Monday evening.

On March 25, 2011, Dr PGS Rao, deputy director in the finance ministry, sent an office memorandum to Vini Mahajan, joint secretary in the Prime Minister`s Office, regarding allocation and pricing of 2G spectrum. Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee reportedly approved the note after personally inspecting the 11-page document.

The note categorically stated that the Department of Telecom (DoT) would have been forced to cancel the 2G licences doled out by Raja, had the ministry of finance under Chidambaram, stuck to its original demand for auctioning the initial `start-up spectrum` of 4.4 megahertz each allotted to the 2008 licensees.

Various official estimates have put the loss to the exchequer due to the 2G allocation on January 10, 2010 somewhere between Rs 50,000 crore to Rs 1,76,000 crore. However, present telecom minister Kapil Sibal has gone on record to claim the exchequer suffered no loss on this account.

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