The government was again on the backfoot as the Opposition continued to target the home minister and former finance minister, P Chidambaram, over the Aircel-Maxis deal. Denying his or his son Karti Chidambaram’s involvement in any telecom company, he made an emotional plea: “It would be much simpler if somebody took a dagger and plunged into my heart, rather than questioning my integrity.”
As the Opposition refused to relent, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee made a statement in both the Houses of Parliament saying, “There was no wrongdoing nor delay in granting FIPB clearance to Aircel-Maxis by then finance minister Chidambaram.”
Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said, “It raises doubt on how on the eve of the FIPB clearance in 2006, a member of the then finance minister’s family was making financial transactions with the companies concerned.” Jaitley further emphasised that the e-mail and web address of Ausbridge Holdings and Investments (a company earlier owned by Chidambaram’s son) and Advantage Strategic Consulting, which is alleged to have invested in Aircel-Maxis, was the same in 2006.
As Chidambaram attempted to reply, BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu questioned in what capacity was the home minister replying, and demanded that Mukherjee make a statement. It was only after uproarious scenes were brought under control that Chidambaram could reply.
In his defence, the former finance minister maintained that both the company promoters knew each other, and “young people are entitled to start legitimate businesses”. Trying to allay all doubts, Chidambaram said he was even ready to have the accounts of Advantage Strategic Consulting examined. “I will be the happiest person to let the finance ministry look into the accounts of Advantage,” Chidambaram said.
The Opposition was not convinced at his reply and disrupted the House again when it met after lunch, leading to two adjournments. Business could resume only at 3 pm, when Pranab Mukherjee addressed the House on the issue.
Mukherjee, who had addressed the Lok Sabha on the issue in the morning, repeated his statement that there were no irregularities or delay in granting FIPB clearance, as had been alleged.