When finance minister Pranab Mukherjee rushed down from Washington DC to New York to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on September 25, did he offer to resign?
Even as two of the senior-most cabinet ministers as well as the prime minister’s office (PMO) were embroiled in the
controversy surrounding a finance ministry note relating the spectrum allocation to 2G telecom operators, there is reason to believe that an exasperated Mukherjee said that he felt enough is enough and requested Singh to relieve him from the cabinet.
Official confirmation of this is unavailable.
Officially, the ministry of finance neither confirmed nor denied anything, although sources said that this was indeed the case.
Said Mukherjee: “Don’t expect me to discuss with the media what transpired in my meeting with the Prime Minister.”
The finance minister is believed to have wanted to quit as he was upset over a section of the establishment’s handling of the latest controversy.
However, both Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi swung into action to avoid a serious crisis that could have precipitated had events taken a different turn.
Gandhi met Mukherjee, a veteran Congressman and, by many measures, one of the most powerful and critically important ministers in the ruling UPA coalition’s cabinet.
The two leaders had a 45-minute meeting during which Mukherjee is believed to have briefed Gandhi about the process behind creation of the note.
The party brass, said sources, asked Mukherjee, the leader of the ruling coalition in Lok Sabha, to concentrate on political measures to control and check any damage that could result as a consequence of the controversial 2G note.
Earlier, the finance minister had flown to New York, cutting short his stay in Washington DC, in order to specially meet the PM who was already there to attend the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.
Top UPA sources claimed that Mukherjee expressed his dissatisfaction to Singh over the way a section of the top administration had dealt with the controversial background note that has now led to embarrassment for the government.
Mukherjee’s meeting with the PM was followed by another meeting with national security adviser Shiv Shankar Menon, a key figure in the PMO.
After returning to New Delhi, the finance minister on Tuesday sent a letter to the PM that put on record what he verbally communicated to Singh about the process followed for preparing the background note.
The letter elaborates on how different meetings were held under the supervision of the cabinet secretariat and PMO officials.
It also points out one of Mukherjee’s main area of disappointment: that the note is not a finance ministry document but a collective inter-ministerial effort.