M A I N   N E W S

PM asks Soren to resign
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 23
The Prime Minister late tonight sought Coal Minister Shibu Sorenís resignation, against whom arrest warrant had been issued in a 30-year-old case. Mr Soren still remains untraceable. The Prime Minister has sent a letter seeking the resignation through the staff of the JMM leader and is awaiting the latterís reply.

Meanwhile, efforts were on till late tonight to persuade him to send in his resignation. This followed a series of meetings the Prime Minister, Mr Manmohan Singh, had with Ms Sonia Gandhi, Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister Shivraj Patil and other party colleagues.

There was a general feeling in the party that this incident involving Mr Soren was hurting the party image. It was, therefore, felt that instead of waiting for the court verdict on Monday he might be asked to step down voluntarily.

In fact, UPA sources said he reportedly told the Prime Minister that he should not be singled out.

Highly-placed UPA sources said Mr Soren pointed out that the other chargesheeted ministers should also be asked to tender their resignations if he was being asked to quit on the basis of an arrest warrant issued against him for a 30-year-old case.

A belligerent Opposition has paralysed Parliament on this issue.

That Mr Soren is not going to quit is evident from JMM leader Sunil Kumar Mahatoís public statement today that Mr Soren would decide on his next course of action after the Jharkhand High Court hears his plea for quashing the arrest warrant on Monday.

Though uncomfortable with this situation, the Congress is also aware of the fact that the BJP has deliberately raised the pitch on the Soren episode with an eye on the coming assembly elections in Jharkhand. The Congress-JMM alliance had swept the Lok Sabha poll and is hoping to do equally well in the coming assembly elections.

The BJP, which had also been wooing Mr Soren before the Lok Sabha elections, is attempting to create a wedge between the Congress and the JMM, according to UPA sources.

They point to the fact that while the BJP is keeping up the pressure on the JMM leader in Delhi, its Jharkhand unit and Chief Minister Arjun Munda have not publicly attacked Mr Soren.


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