M A I N   N E W S

Shibu Soren resigns
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 24
In keeping with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s directive, Union Coal and Mines Minister Shibu Soren submitted his resignation ringing down the curtain on a week-long drama which had paralysed the functioning of Parliament.

With a non-bailable arrest warrant against Mr Soren, his continuance in the government had become untenable even though the Jharkhand High Court is scheduled to hear his petition for bail on Monday.

Dr Singh forwarded Mr Soren's resignation to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam for acceptance, according to Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. Asked if Mr Soren would be taken back in the Cabinet if he was released on bail, Mr Azad said it was for the Prime Minister to decide.

Mr Kalam accepted the resignation of Mr Soren in the evening.

As the first casualty in Dr Singh’s government, Mr Soren continued to remain incommunicado. His resignation letter was handed over to the Prime Minister by a JMM delegation led by Sunil Kumar Mahato here this afternoon.

Authoritative sources said Dr Singh had taken the position that Mr Soren should make his exit from the government when it became known that a non-bailable arrest warrant had been issued against him.

However, a fresh twist had been added to the problem when Mr Soren in a letter to Dr Singh had obliquely charged the Congress of queering the pitch for him apart from charging the BJP and its government in Jharkhand of whipping up a political conspiracy against him.

Nevertheless, a highly embarrassed Dr Singh convened a high-powered meeting yesterday to review the Soren issue and decided to ask him to put in his papers. This was after Parliament had taken a three-week recess.

The last straw for the Prime Minister was BJP leader and former Union Minister Murli Manohar Joshi’s accusations in the Rajya Sabha yesterday that Dr Singh had also gone missing with Mr Soren.

Then the problem arose where should the Prime Minister’s letter be delivered as Mr Soren or his immediate aides including his personal secretary were untraceable. However, the absconding minister’s additional private secretary was located late at night and the PM’s letter was handed to him.

After meeting the Prime Minister, Mr Mahato told mediapersons that the case against Mr Soren had been revived by the BJP because of the upcoming assembly elections in Jharkhand.

On the whereabouts of Mr Soren, Mr Mahato remarked that the JMM supremo was “with his people.” He refused to divulge the location or place. Asked if Mr Soren will surrender before the court, he observed “May be after the High Court decision on Monday and he (Mr Soren) will follow the judicial process and the law.”

Even as the BJP welcomed Dr Singh’s directive to Mr Soren to resign from the government saying it was a belated decision, the Congress refused to comment.


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