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Chidambaram kept out of loop on bugging issue

Vinay Kumar

NEW DELHI: In his first remarks on the issue of bugging of Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's North Block office, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram did not know about it.

During his interaction with five senior editors, Dr. Singh replied in the negative when asked if the complaint of bugging went through the Home Minister.

“No. This was on a need-to-know principle,'' Dr. Singh said. He admitted that there was a complaint that the office of the Finance Minister was bugged. “I asked the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to do a thorough check. The IB reported back to me that there was nothing of the sort,'' Dr. Singh said.

The Prime Minister's reply comes as a surprise because the Home Ministry which exercises control over IB had been completely kept out of the loop. Though both Mr. Mukherjee and Mr. Chidambaram have dismissed insinuations about any mistrust between them, it is surprising why Mr. Mukherjee, number two in the UPA government, chose to keep the Home Minister in the dark and went straight to the Prime Minister last year.

As part of the routine exercise also, the Home Minister was entitled to know about the sensitive issue rather than being kept out.

Mr. Chidambaram, in a recent interview to NDTV, had said that he came to know about the bugging incident from newspaper reports.

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