M A I N   N E W S

Cong tells Antulay to take back Karkare remarks
Minister refuses to confirm or deny he has quit
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 19
To say that the Congress-led UPA government is in a catch-22 situation over how to deal with the situation arising out of the statement made by union minister for minority affairs A.R. Antulay would be an understatement.

Apparently, Antulay, who sparked off a major political storm with controversial remarks over killing of Mumbai ATS chief Hemant Karkare and his colleagues, has offered a conditional resignation. Sources say while Antulay has sent in his resignation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, it has not been accepted yet.

But the kind of ramifications his statement have generated, a resignation is not what the Congress is looking for. It wants Antulay to retract his statement entirely to save the government from any further embarrassment and is now putting pressure on him. Besides, Antulay’s remarks have found substantive support in sections of minority community, making it even more difficult for the party to take any action against him.

What is adding to the Congress’ worries is that while on the one hand with the general elections just a couple of months away it is the question of the huge Muslim vote bank, on the other are the government’s concerted efforts to nail Pakistan by building up its case at the international level, which has been diluted with one statement made by Antulay.

Till late tonight it remained a matter of speculation whether Antulay would continue to be in the cabinet or not. Antulay himself kept the suspense alive on whether he had resigned or not. He also attended a cabinet meeting in the evening, where he brought up the issue pertaining to his ministry.

There too he neither confirmed nor denied whether he had resigned. “I am a soldier of the party, if it’s in the interest of the party then I will resign. The party doesn’t have to tell me to resign,” is what he said.

So far efforts to persuade Antulay to retract his statement appear to have not been successful. The party’s problems do not end just here. Sensing support for himself from various quaters, the minister on Friday reiterated what he said with greater resolve, leaving very little room for the government to manoeuver out of it.

Unfazed by the controversy, Antulay said he stuck to his stand and that both the government and the Congress should feel proud of his comments.

Officially, the Congress continues to toe the same line that it does not endorse Antulay’s views. “The party in no manner endorses the views of Antulay,” Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said today.

Asked if any action was being contemplated against Antulay, Tewari said, “It is for the government to take a decision as he was a member of the cabinet and the Congress believes in separation of powers (between the party and the government). Yesterday, the leader of the House said in the Lok Sabha that the government would respond to. Let the reply come”.

Sources, however, indicate that the party is pressuring Antulay to retract. “It has been conveyed to him that he has to retract his statement. You cannot say anything that lets Pakistan off the hook at this point of time...the window is very slim,” party sources add.




Sack him: BJP

The BJP today asked for an end to the “Antulay drama”, terming it the “theatre of the absurd" and demanded an apology from the Congress. “This drama must end. In some ways, it can be called the theatre of the absurd. Antulay is saying he will neither confirm nor deny that he has resigned,” BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters here. Prasad said Antulay had not only reiterated his earlier statement about Karkare’s death being a conspiracy but has tried to “patently communalise” the issue. “Antulay has tried to put a Muslim angle to it too. We strongly condemn it,” he said. The party demanded immediate sacking of the minister.



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