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Pranab, Chidambaram Meet Sonia Separately

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Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Monday stepped into the 2G spectrum row that has engulfed the Government by meeting Home Minister P Chidambaram and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee amid unconfirmed reports that the former had offered to quit.

Mukherjee saw Gandhi shortly after his return from New York where he had met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh against the backdrop of the raging controversy over a Finance Ministry note which suggested that Chidambaram when he was the Finance Minister in 2008 could have prevented the 2G scam if he had insisted on the auction of the spectrum. The note has angered the Home Minister.

As the intense effort to defuse the crisis continued, some media reports suggested that Chidambaram had offered to step down but there was no authentic word on it. Chidambaram had publicly stated a few days back that he would not speak on the controversy till the Prime Minister returns from the US.

Singh is due to return home on Tuesday.

Chidambaram, who met Gandhi first, was with her for 15 minutes while Mukherjee's parleys with the Congress President lasted 40 minutes.

Before his parleys with Gandhi, Mukherjee repeated his praise of Chidambaram as a "valuable colleague" and went on to say that he was a "pillar of strength" to the Government.

Both Mukherjee and Chidambaram drove past waiting reporters after meeting Gandhi at her 10 Janpath residence without saying a word. Details of what transpired at the two meetings were not immediately known.

This was Chidambaram's first meeting with Gandhi, who is also UPA Chairperson, after controversy broke out last week over the note to the Prime Minister's Office(PMO).

Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid downplayed the row over the note, saying there is no scope for any worry in the document and that inferences drawn out of it were "not correct". Khurshid also said the note was not worth keeping the media "preoccupied" the for a long time.

At the AICC briefing, party spokesperson Rashid Alvi did an apparent balancing act saying neither Chidambaram nor Mukherjee has done anything wrong.

(PTI)