The Finance Ministry on Monday came to the rescue of Union Home Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, in Parliament. The Finance Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, said there was no wrong-doing in the clearance of investment by Aircel-Maxis in 2006 by Mr Chidambaram, who was heading the Ministry then.

Mr Chidambaram was in the eye of a storm over the alleged involvement of his family members in the deal. Mr Mukherjee said there were two separate proposals before the Ministry for Foreign Investment Promotion Board's clearance, and both were processed in the normal course, without any delay. “There is no scope for any misunderstanding and misinterpretation. In both cases there was no delay in granting the approval,” he said.

Mr Mukherjee said Global Communication Services Holdings Ltd, Mauritius, made an investment to acquire 73.99 per cent equity in Aircel Ltd on January 6, 2006. He added that the FIPB approved it on March 7, 2006, after the Ministries and Departments concerned took the normal time of four to six weeks to offer their comments.

Opposition Seeks Clarity

Earlier, the Opposition leader, Mr Arun Jaitley, raised the matter in the Rajya Sabha and sought a clarification from the Government on how a foreign company was allowed to buy 99 per cent stake in an Indian company, as FDI in telecom was limited to 74 per cent. He said Maxis had informed the stock exchange of another country that it owned almost 100 per cent in Aircel.

In an emotional outburst, Mr Chidambaram said it would have been much easier for him had somebody taken a dagger and plunged it into his heart than question his integrity. He said none of his family members were connected either to Aircel or to Maxis in 2006, when the FIPB clearance was granted.

Mr Jaitley and other Opposition members were not convinced by the Home Minister's arguments and demanded a clarification from Mr Mukherjee.

>jigeesh.am@thehindu.co.in

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