Home Minister P Chidambaram was on Friday appointed the head of the Empowered Group of Ministers on spectrum auction that was reconstituted after Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar declined the job.
In a decision that was attacked by the Bharatiya Janata Party, Chidambaram, a former finance minister, will head the seven-member group that also includes Defence Minister A K Antony, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal, Information and Broadcast Minister Ambika Soni, Law Minister Salman Khurshid, Minister of State in Prime Minister's Office V Narayanasamy and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
The ministerial panel will decide on the minimum or the base price for auction of telecom spectrum vacated from cancellation of 122 licenses by the Supreme Court earlier this year.
Pawar, who earlier this week recused himself from chairing the group fearing he would be dragged into controversies, is not a member of the reconstituted EGoM, sources said.
Sources said no date for the meeting of the EGoM has been fixed yet.
The EGoM was reconstituted last week after Pranab Mukherjee, who was heading it, resigned as finance minister to contest the Presidential elections.
Reacting to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's decision, BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said it was not only regrettable and condemnable but downright scandalous.
"The prime minister is not concerned about propriety," he said while his party colleague Yashwant Sinha was sarcastic about the appointment.
Congress spokesperson Renuka Chaudhary strongly defended the decision, saying opposition allegations against Chidambaram were not substantiated. The government has to govern and cannot be held hostage to opposition's allegations, she said.