M A I N   N E W S

Cong defends PM, says no divide on ministers’ sacking
Aditi Tandon/TNS

New Delhi, May 12
On a day when the BJP launched an all-out attack against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the issue of ‘coalgate’ and corruption by staging protests here today, the Congress rushed to defend him by insisting that the party and the Government were one in deciding to drop Pawan Kumar Bansal and Ashwani Kumar from the Union Cabinet.

Making this assertion, AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said the perception that the two ministers were dropped at the insistence of Congress President Sonia Gandhi was not correct and the decision was taken jointly by her and the PM.

Dwivedi’s statement came in the wake of BJP veteran LK Advani’s comments as to why the Prime Minister had abdicated his right to decide on his Cabinet. Also, it came a day after Congress spokesperson Bhakta Charan Das gave credit to Sonia Gandhi for the resignation of the two ministers pointing out that she had no tolerance for corruption.

As for the divide, it surfaced after the failure of the Government in acting against the beleaguered ministers despite the seriousness of the charges they faced. While Bansal’s nephew was arrested by the CBI on May 5, there was no indication of his exit till May 10 after which Congress President Sonia Gandhi reached the PM’s residence followed by her political secretary Ahmad Patel and the news of heads rolling started to flow.

That apart, this is the second time in a month that AICC media department head Dwivedi has publicly sought to dispel the growing perception that Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi differed on issues. Dwivedi’s last clarification came when Congress senior leader Digvijay Singh remarked that two power centres in the ruling dispensation were not working well. For the Congress, Prime Minister and his authority’s defence is critical in the wake of BJP’s tirade against the latter and upcoming Assembly elections followed by the 16th Lok Sabha elections next year.

That explains the attempts being made to blunt the attack of the Opposition which is seeking PM’s resignation on the grounds that he was coal minister and a PMO joint secretary attended the meeting which Ashwani Kumar held with the CBI to make changes in its ‘coalgate’ draft report.

Rajeev Shukla, MoS for Parliamentary Affairs, said today, “The BJP has demanded PM’s resignation 180 times since 2004. Had their requests been granted, India would have seen 180 PMs in nine years.”

The Congress has launched a counter offensive accusing the BJP of double standards over ‘coalgate’. The offensive involves the BJP’s “disinterest” in the food bill. To launch this one, the Congress has consciously fielded Bhakta Charan Das, its newly appointed spokesperson, who represents Bolangir in Lok Sabha. Bolangir is part of the Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput region which comprises eight hunger-prone districts in Odisha.

Meanwhile, the expected meeting of the Congress core group to discuss the situation in the wake of the ministers’ exit did not take place today.

The trigger

Congress spokesperson Bhakta Charan Das had given credit to Sonia Gandhi for the resignation of the two ministers pointing out that she had no tolerance for corruption.





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