The attack over the release of former Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson on Friday appeared to be zeroing in on the then Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Arjun Singh, with two Congress leaders, Digvijay Singh and R.K. Dhawan, saying he should answer how it happened.
A day after kicking up a controversy by reportedly alleging that U.S. pressure could have led to Anderson leaving the country in December 1984, Digvijay Singh on said he was unaware of the developments at that time as he had resigned as Minister in the Madhya Pradesh government and was campaigning for Lok Sabha polls.
“In the statement itself, I had clarified that I was campaigning and really don’t know the events which led to the bail and release of Mr. Anderson,” Mr. Digvijay Singh said in an email response to PTI from the U.S. where he is currently on a tour.
He said the “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.
On the action taken by then Central government and Madhya Pradesh government, Mr. Digvijay Singh said he could not “sit on judgement”.
He said Rajiv Gandhi had left his campaign and visited Bhopal immediately, visiting the affected areas and meeting the families of affected persons.
“The government of India extended all possible help immediately to the state government,” Mr. Digvijay Singh said.
Echoing Digvijay Singh’s views, R.K. Dhawan, private secretary to Rajiv Gandhi, said Mr. Arjun Singh was the “only person who can answer” how Anderson left the country.
He said he did not believe that Rajiv Gandhi would have known about the developments or asked Mr. Arjun Singh to provide the airport to Anderson by which he flew out of Bhopal.
Joining the attack on Mr. Arjun Singh, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan also asked him to explain the circumstances in which Anderson left.
“Let Arjun Singh explain it. Whether he did it (gave permission for providing State aircraft) himself or anybody told him to do so. We want a reply from him if a wrong direction was given. And after all, why such a direction was given,” said Mr. Chouhan, who has already written a letter in this regard to Mr. Arjun Singh. Congress spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan also appeared to put the onus on Arjun Singh as she insisted that Rajiv Gandhi government had no role to play in Anderson’s escape.
“I categorically deny involvement of the then Central government,” she told reporters when pointed out that some people were alleging that Mr. Arjun Singh acted at the behest of Rajiv Gandhi.
On Mr. Digvijay Singh’s reported suggestion about “U.S. pressure”, Ms. Natarajan said he had already “explained” his statement and the question of indicting anyone “does not arise”.
With regard to the controversy over where the appeal should have been filed against the Supreme Court verdict watering down charges, Mr. Digvijay Singh said the Supreme Court “in its wisdom clubbed all cases filed individually and decided on the quantum of compensation”.
The Congress leader said special courts were appointed under the directions of the Supreme Court to decide on individual cases and criminal case was investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation.
There was a Cabinet sub-committee, which dealt with and took decisions which the State government implemented, Mr. Digvijay Singh said.