On Board Air India One: In what could give a new spin to the 2G spectrum row, Home Minister P Chidambaram had offered to resign when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called him before leaving for New York, sources said.

However, the Prime Minister is reported to have backed Chidambaram wholeheartedly, expressing full faith in his integrity.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday fully backed Home Minister P Chidambaram on the 2G spectrum issue and ruled out any infighting among the ministers.

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"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 subjudice", he 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 said.

The Prime Minister was asked about the surfacing of a Finance Ministry note of March, 2011, which has said that the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram could have recommended auctioning of 2G Spectrum if he had wanted instead of selling it at 2001 prices.

Asked if the Finance Ministry note signified infighting among the ministers of his cabinet, Singh differed.

"I don't conclude that this can be interpreted as a fight between ministers", the Prime Minister said.

Earlier last night, an upset Chidambaram spoke to the Prime Minister in Frankfurt and discussed the developments in the Supreme Court against the backdrop of the submission of a Finance Ministry March, 2011 note to the apex court.

During the conversation that lasted 20 minutes, the Prime Minister is understood to have expressed full confidence in Chidambaram's integrity and he was ready to say that in public.

Singh is believed to have counselled patience on the part of Chidambaram till he returns to India from the New York trip.

The Prime Minister is believed to have told Chidambaram that he has not seen the Finance Ministry's March, 2011, note.

Sources in the PMO sought to make light of the controversy over the Finance Ministry note saying the Prime Minister had sought a comprehensive note on the 2G issue and it was given.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had not made any comment on it, the sources noted.

Chidambaram speaks to PM

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram called Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and discussed with him the issue of a Finance Ministry note on allocation of 2G spectrum which appeared to raise questions on his role.

The telephone call on Wednesday night lasted 20 minutes during which the Prime Minister is believed to have expressed full faith in the integrity of the former Finance Minister and that he was ready to say this, according to sources on Thursday.

The sources said the Prime Minister also counseled Chidambaram to be patient till he returns home from New York on September 27.

The "secret" note was not shown to him; Singh is believed to have told Chidambaram, who was the Finance Minister during 2G spectrum allocation.

The March 25, 2011 document on allocation and pricing of 2G spectrums broadly suggests that Chidambaram could have insisted that the valuable resource could have been auctioned at the time the spectrum was sold on a first come, first served basis by the former Telecom Minister A Raja, now behind bars.

The note submitted to the Supreme Court on Wednesday by Janata party leader Subramanian Swamy during a hearing on his petition was written by PGS Rao, Deputy Director in the Finance Ministry, to Vini Mahajan, Joint Secretary in the PMO.

The covering letter to the note also said that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had seen the note. Meanwhile, Chidambaram on Thursday declined to comment on the Finance Ministry note to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) that appeared to raise questions on his role in the controversial 2G spectrum allocation.

BJP seeks dismissal of Chidambaram

BJP on Thursday alleged that Home Minister P Chidambaram was involved in the scam and demanded that he should resign or else be sacked immediately.

"The Finance Ministry officials were telling the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram to go for auctions. Why was it not done?.... There are clear contradictions here. I strongly demand that either Chidambaram should resign or he should be dismissed forthwith," senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi told reporters.

Citing several "anomalies" in the process of 2-G spectrum allocation, Joshi sought to know why Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not take timely action to prevent the scam.

"It is most disgraceful that a Finance Minister (Chidambaram) has pushed the country into a scam..... The Prime Minister should also answer why he was so easily misled.
Everything was in his knowledge," Joshi said.

BJP further demanded that the "exact quantum of loss" to the country due to this scam should be determined by the present Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and made public. He said CBI should also inquire into the role of Chidambaram in the scam.

"I also want to ask CBI that despite so much evidence being there against Chidambaram, why did it not question him on his involvement," Joshi said.

He also asked Mukherjee to speak out about his letter to the Prime Minister, saying only the scam is sub-judice and not this document.

Joshi alleged that Chidambaram, who was at the "helm of affairs" as Finance Minister, was "clear that there should be no auctions".

Referring to reports today that Prime Minister Singh has asked Chidambaram not to act in haste, the BJP leader said there has already been a lot of delay and Chidambaram should
own up responsibility and quit.

Posing several questions on the anomalies in the process adopted by UPA-I in 2-G spectrum allocation, Joshi said the suggestion that the matter be put up before the concerned Group of Ministers was also not followed.

Insisting that as per the rules, the Telecom and Finance Ministries had to jointly take the decision of whether to go for first-come-first-serve or auction, he said the latter was equally culpable.

Joshi, who as PAC chairperson, has looked into the 2-G spectrum issue in detail, said the use of spectrum and entry fee for the licensee were the "crux" of the whole issue.

"The entry fee is determined on the basis of size of the market, the number of users and so on. There is also an improvement in technology over a period of time. Spectrum cannot be sold in 2008 at 2001 prices," he said.

BJP also sought to know what Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal has to say in the light of this new letter. "Sibal had earlier said there was zero loss. What happens to that statement now?" he asked.

Senior leader Arun Jaitley also demanded a (CBI) probe into Chidambaram's role and said that the government, which is defending him is in denial. Jaitley also demanded Government's response to the Finance Ministry note.

AIADMK, CPM seek action against PC

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Thursday demanded that Home Minister P Chidambaram resign in the wake of the Finance Ministry's note on the 2G spectrum issue or Prime Minister Manmohan Singh drop him from the Cabinet.

"It is quite clear that Mr Chidambaram is deeply involved in the 2G spectrum scam, which according to the CAG's report has caused a loss of over Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the Indian exchequer," she said when asked about the Finance Ministry's note to the PMO that Chidambaram, the then Finance Minister, could have insisted on the spectrum auction.

She said Chidambaram should immediately resign from his post or else the Prime Minister should drop him from the cabinet.

"The CBI should proceed against Chidambaram, as they did against A Raja...", Jayalalithaa said.

The AIADMK supremo, however, refused to comment on DMK's claim that the note could help former Telecom Minister A Raja and DMK MP Kanimozhi, now in jail on the issue.

"I would not like to comment on that. I will stop with whatever I have said," she said.

In a document submitted before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, the Finance Ministry had said the Telecom Ministry could have gone in for auction of 2G spectrum licenses had the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram insisted on this.

Meanwhile, the CPI(M) demanded a CBI probe into the role of P Chidambaram, who was the Finance Minister when the 2G spectrum allocation scam took place, in view of the "mounting evidence" against him.

Referring to the note submitted by the Finance Ministry to the Prime Minister's Office in March this year, the party said it had "authoritatively" shown that Chidambaram had then cleared the allotment of licences for 2G spectrum at the 2001 entry fee, "even though the Finance Secretary and his own Ministry had pointed out the need for its revision". It said that "evidence has also come to light that a meeting between the then Telecom Minister A Raja and Chidambaram had taken place in January 2008 in which, according to the note prepared by the Finance Secretary, the Finance Minister had stated that they are not going to re-visit the issue of entry fee or revenue sharing".

(JPN/Agencies)