M A I N   N E W S

Day 4
Digvijay, 2 MPs back Antulay
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 20
Though minority affairs minister A. R. Antulay has already submitted his resignation after the controversial remarks on the death of Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare created a political storm and embarrassed the government, the Congress leadership today continued to grapple with the messy situation arising from the statement.

The Congress core group met at the residence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to find a way out and resolve the situation caused by Antulay’s remarks, raising questions over circumstances surrounding the killing of Karkare by Pakistani terrorists in Mumbai.

The meeting was attended by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, home minister P. Chidambaram, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, defence minister A.K. Antony and political secretary to Congress president Ahmed Patel. However, the meeting ended without a decision on Antulay’s fate, party sources said.

Now it is up to the Leader of the House to make the government’s position clear in Parliament before it winds up business for the session on December 23.

During an hour-long meeting, pros and cons of the party’s and the government’s position in either case, if Antulay’s resignation is accepted and if it is not, were discussed but till late evening. However, there was no official word on it. For the Congress, it continues to remain a tricky situation.

Sources say the party’s position was fairly clear till yesterday. But since then some members have mounted pressure in favour of Antulay, which seem to have complicated the situation even further. They say this “important group” within the Congress feels that Antulay has been misinterpreted and should not resign.

In any case, Antulay got some rare support from within his party when AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh reportedly said Antulay had been “misreported” and that his demand for a probe was not wrong.

“What he has asked for is a probe which is already on. This possibility (of Karkare being murdered for the Malegaon blast probe) appears to be low because the course of events minimises it. Antulay has said the matter should be investigated that who ordered him (Karkare) to go there. What is objectionable in that?” he was quoted by news agency as saying.

The official stand of the Congress has been to distance itself from Antulay’s remarks saying they were his personal views.

“The Congress certainly does not subscribe to his remarks or with his formulation,” said party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi.

For the party, it is a catch-22 situation. If his resignation is accepted, the party fears landing itself into a situation where it might end up alienating the vast Muslim vote bank as Antulay’s remarks have found an echo in the Muslim community.

And if it is not accepted, the question is what kind of statement will Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee make in Parliament? If he says that the government stands by his remarks, there can be more political trouble. And not just this, the whole case build up by the government against Pakistan will also weaken.

But if the government says it does not stand by the Cabinet Minister’s remarks, then Antulay’s position becomes untenable in the government and the Congress fears it may have to pay a huge political price.

Meanwhile, effort to counter the damage caused by Antulay’s remarks are being worked out by the Congress, which is considering launching a counter attack on the BJP on the basis of a statement made by BJP leader Jaswant Singh.

Talking on the Kandhar hijack, Singh had told a news channel that he would not hesitate to release terrorists to save the lives of passengers if confronted with the same situation again.

He later said he did not doubt that terrorists had killed Karkare, but wanted a probe into who ordered him to go after militants on November 26.



Antulay competent enough to issue clarification: Lalu

Patna, December 20
RJD chief and railway minister Lalu Prasad today said A.R. Antulay was competent enough to issue a clarification. When asked to comment on Antulay's controversial remarks, Prasad said: “It is common knowledge that the Mumbai carnage is the handiwork of Pakistani terrorists and former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif has admitted that Ajmal Kasab, the only terrorist caught alive, is a Pakistani national. “All those killed in the Mumbai attack, including Karkare, were killed by Pakistani terrorists.... He is competent enough to issue a clarification,”he said. — PTI



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