NATIONAL POLITICS: Congress in Rajiv thrust – Party ‘absolutely’ rules out former PM’s involvement, says Anderson flight plot to be probed – the unrelenting ghosts of the past are catching up ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
New Delhi, June 11: The Congress today denied any involvement of Rajiv Gandhi in the release of Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson but said the ministerial group set up on the gas tragedy would look into who conspired to get the American freed.
Asked if the party was in a position to categorically deny the late Prime Minister’s role in Anderson’s flight to freedom, Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natrajan said: “Absolutely.”
The one-word reply was the first categorical assertion from the Congress that Rajiv Gandhi was in no way involved, since details surfaced about how Anderson was virtually escorted out of Bhopal on a government aircraft hours after his arrest.
Natrajan went on to say there was also no question of indicting the then central government headed by Rajiv Gandhi, hinting that any dubious role played by certain individuals did not mean the government as a whole conspired to get Anderson freed.
The spokesperson tried to clear the confusion created by a flurry of unauthorised remarks yesterday, particularly stressing that AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh did not make any insinuation about the Rajiv Gandhi government. She said Digvijay had already explained his statement, which was by no means aimed at Rajiv Gandhi’s government.
A text message from Digvijay, a Madhya Pradesh minister at the time of the 1984 leak, had suggested that Anderson could have been allowed to leave “under US pressure”. But the full text message made it clear his primary objective was to protect himself.
“I don’t know as I was not in Bhopal at the time of (the) gas leak. It could be under US pressure but I am not aware of the facts,” the message said.
Sources close to Digvijay said the media had distorted his “reluctant responses”.
Digvijay, who is in the US with his ailing wife, sent a message today to PTI, saying: “I had clarified that I was campaigning and really don’t know the events which led to the bail and release of Mr Anderson. People who can answer this are Arjun Singhji, the then CM, as also Brahm Swaroop, the then chief secretary of Madhya Pradesh, Moti Singh, the then collector of Bhopal, and Swaraj Puri, the then SP of Bhopal.”
Senior Congress leader R.K. Dhawan, who was Rajiv Gandhi’s private secretary at that time, said Arjun was the “only person who can answer” how Anderson left the country.
Dhawan said he did not think Rajiv Gandhi would have known about the developments or asked Arjun to provide the aircraft that flew Anderson out of Bhopal. An integral part of the Congress system since the days of Indira Gandhi, Dhawan is said to be very close to Arjun.
It is almost certain that Arjun, too, does not intend to cast aspersions on the Gandhi family. Although he has said he will wait for an appropriate time to break his silence on the allegations that his government colluded in Anderson’s escape, party sources denied any concerted effort to corner him.
A section of the party feels that Arjun might name a senior Congress leader who is dead and the present party set-up wouldn’t mind that.
It was, however, not clear what role the group of ministers (GoM) would play in establishing the identity of the person as promised by the Congress spokesperson, who said “all the issues that need to be examined will be looked into”.
Jayanthi dismissed allegations of conflict of interest against some GoM members as “unfair”. Kamal Nath and P. Chidambaram had been accused of advocating the cause of Dow Chemicals, which has bought Union Carbide.
She also said the party had nothing to do with fellow spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi’s association as a lawyer with Dow Chemicals.
Ex-aide’s flip-flop on boss – and the current slip-slide ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Chennai, June 11: P.C. Alexander, Rajiv Gandhi’s principal secretary during the Bhopal tragedy, appears unsure about the extent of his boss’s involvement in Warren Anderson’s release.
Yesterday, he had told this newspaper: “The PMO was kept out of that decision and I was in the dark. I am not sure if Rajiv Gandhi was in any way involved. I don’t think the decision would have been his.”
But today, he told a news channel that Rajiv could have taken the decision in the national interest. “Rajiv Gandhi and Arjun Singh were in a long conversation after the meeting of the CCPA (cabinet committee on political affairs)…. Maybe the decision was taken then.”
Asked about the contradictory remark, Alexander said maybe the political decision was taken by Rajiv on Arjun’s advice. “He had been Prime Minister for less than two months then. It is possible that the more experienced Arjun talked him into it….”
Alexander had drifted away from the Nehru-Gandhi family after the Congress ignored his presidential ambitions.
Bhopal tragedy: Govt did its job, judiciary took time, says Moily
From NDTV Correspondent
New Delhi June 12, 2010 13:30 IST: As the blame game over Bhopal verdict intensifies, Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily has pointed a finger at the judiciary for delaying the Bhopal case and letting the then Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson get away.
“I am already on record that case is not closed against Anderson. CBI had filed a chargesheet against Anderson and all the other accused under Section 304(2) where the maximum punishment is 10 years. But the case was converted to 304 A – which is meant for car accidents – by the Chief Justice of India at that time. For an offence of this dimension, I am sorry it was reduced. The government had done its duty, but because of judiciary it was delayed,” he said.
“We are working on fast-tracking such cases. Cases of mass destruction should have standard law. Mass destruction is not an accident but a disaster. A process of class litigation should also be there,” Moily added.
He also insisted that the case against Warren Anderson was still not closed.
Earlier, the United States had said that it would “carefully evaluate” any new request from India to bring to justice Warren Anderson, who is wanted in a case related to the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy that killed several thousands of people.
State department spokesperson PJ Crowley told reporters that the US would carefully evaluate any request from the Indian government.
The statement comes days after the Indian Foreign Ministry said the US had rejected India’s extradition plea for want of direct culpability. Officials say India has renewed the request for an extradition several times between 2003 and 2008.
Modi to speak at Patna rally – the BJP short-circuit game underway, should probably defect to Janta Dal or get ousted ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
Patna, June 11: Narendra Modi will not only dine at Nitish Kumar’s table tomorrow but will also speak at the BJP’s Patna rally the day after.
Nitish had earlier hinted to ally BJP that neither Modi nor Varun Gandhi, seen as the public faces of hardcore Hindutva, should address Sunday’s rally lest it turns Muslim voters away from the Janata Dal (United) during the Bihar elections later this year.
But, BJP and Dal (United) sources claimed, the Bihar chief minister’s antipathy to his Gujarat counterpart has begun melting of late.
Narendra Modi, whom Nitish hosts at his residence tomorrow night, will be one of the “star speakers” at Sunday’s Gandhi Maidan rally, Bihar deputy chief minister and BJP leader Sushil Modi said today. He did not mention Varun.
Asked if Nitish had eventually approved of Narendra Modi’s presence at the rally, which would mark the launch of the BJP’s election campaign, Sushil Modi said: “This is a BJP function. We run a coalition government… and there are no junior or senior partners.”
Ruling coalition sources, however, said Nitish had insisted on a sweetener. It came in the form of a full-page ad published by the Gujarat government in Urdu, Hindi and English dailies of Bihar yesterday.
The advertisement tried to counter the allegations that Narendra Modi was anti-Muslim. It quoted from the Sachar committee report to show that Gujarat’s Muslims had a literacy rate of 73.5 per cent against the national average of 59.1 per cent, and that the state government employed 5.4 per cent more minorities in its departments than Left-ruled Bengal or Congress-ruled Delhi.
Sushil Modi denied the advertisement was meant to mollify Nitish and claimed it was a “done thing” for a BJP-ruled state to release advertisements on the eve of a national executive session. The BJP will hold its national executive here on June 12 and 13.
However, a senior BJP member of Parliament acknowledged that it was unusual for a party chief minister to have published an ad such as this in a different state.
BJP and Dal (United) sources said Nitish had changed his mind on Narendra Modi after figuring out that the BJP’s vote base in Bihar was bigger than that of the Congress. He apparently believes that it would be foolhardy to antagonise his ally of 15 years and dally with “an unknown entity” like the Congress.
There was speculation that with the minorities supposedly being drawn to the Congress, Nitish might jettison the BJP after the polls. “It’s apparent that the Congress’s revival might be more mythical than real,” a Dal (United) MLA said.
Sources said Narendra Modi had initially been reluctant to speak at the Patna rally but Bihar BJP leaders, one of whom called on him in Gandhinagar last week, assured him there would be no adverse reaction from Nitish.
The Gujarat chief minister was also told this was an opportune moment for him to modify his own image before the minorities of the heartland.
He was told that since the Bihar elections were being fought on the planks of development and good governance, he should showcase his own achievements in these spheres.
Narendra Modi relented but not before receiving a dinner invite from Nitish. He will be the only BJP leader to be accommodated at the state guesthouse with Advani.
Jaswant not going to Patna but homecoming may not be far away – silence is golden where it is folly to be wise ?!!
From The Hindu
By Neena Vyas
NEW DELHI, June 11, 2010: Jaswant Singh is almost there, but not quite.
He will not make it to the BJP’s Patna national executive as “some distance” yet remains to be covered before he returns to the party.
Apparently, BJP president Nitin Gadkari met Mr. Singh on Wednesday leading to a buzz that he may have invited the former senior leader to the two-day conclave beginning June 13.
However, Mr. Singh’s answer was a firm “no” to a question by The Hindu whether he would go to Patna. “BJP is in my blood” he said a couple of weeks earlier, when asked about reports that he might be returning to the party-fold.
On Thursday, his answer to the query whether he would rejoin the BJP soon was: “We have yet to cover some distance” before that happens.
It seems the homecoming will happen soon.
Many in the party feel that the decision to expel Mr. Singh for his book on Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah was wrong.
Senior leaders got carried away by the diatribe of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who warned just before a formal party meeting in Shimla last August, that Mr. Singh’s views on Sardar Vallabhai Patel would not go down well with the people in his State, where he had banned the book.
There were also other voices — Ananth Kumar and Vinay Katiyar — demanding his expulsion and senior leaders Rajnath Singh and L.K. Advani concurred by their silence.