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Updated: June 12, 2010 01:50 IST

Bhopal: Congress says it's for government, not party, to explain

Smita Gupta
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi during a convention in New Delhi. File Photo: V. Sudershan
The Hindu Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi during a convention in New Delhi. File Photo: V. Sudershan

Concern in party over isolating Arjun Singh

The Congress, pushed to defend its record in dealing with the Bhopal gas tragedy case, was once again in fire fighting mode. On Friday evening, the party's core committee — consisting of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, her Political Secretary Ahmed Patel, Union Ministers Pranab Mukherjee, P. Chidambaram and A.K. Antony — decided, highly placed sources told The Hindu, that “the government, not the party, would have to clarify” on the various aspects of the case, as “the facts are only with the government.”

The party was concerned, the sources said, that the former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi's image should not be tarnished by the current controversy.

There was also anxiety in party circles that the continuing attempt to “isolate” and “humiliate” the former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Arjun Singh, might provoke him into breaking his silence on the chain of events — and phone calls — that led to Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson being given safe passage out of Bhopal and the country. The BJP, smelling blood, has naturally pitched in: Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Chauhan has written to Mr. Singh asking for an explanation for Mr. Anderson's “flight” from Bhopal and also for a panel of legal experts to examine the trial court judgment.

Earlier, a Cabinet Minister told The Hindu that the government had hoped the announcement of the reconstituted Group of Ministers (GOM) on Bhopal, with its wide ranging mandate, would help quell public anger and Opposition fire. But with the controversy continuing to rage on in the media, and a growing dramatis personae stepping on the stage with revelations and accusations, the Minister said, the Congress was being compelled to answer questions. The Minister also stressed the need to ensure that Rajiv Gandhi was not dragged into the mire.

‘Facts will be unearthed'

Indeed, party spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan on Friday emphatically stated that there was “no question of the Rajiv Gandhi government being implicated,” and that the GoM would unearth all facts about the case. “All facts need to be brought out about how Warren Anderson escaped,” she said, adding, “all avenues should be explored to arrive at the truth.”

The sources said the Congress might also go on the offensive and question why the NDA government, which was in power for six years, did nothing to push for extradition of Mr. Anderson.

Defending Mr. Chidambaram and his Cabinet colleague, Kamal Nath — who reportedly advised the government not to press Dow Chemicals for remediation charges as the company was prepared to invest in India — Ms. Natarajan said: “It is not right to cast aspersions on Ministers who gave an opinion on an issue, without knowing the context.”

On Friday, P.C. Alexander, then Principal Secretary to Rajiv Gandhi, hinted that Mr Gandhi might have released Mr. Anderson in consultation with Mr. Singh. His remarks drew an angry response from Congress leader R.K. Dhawan, private secretary to Mr. Gandhi when he was Prime Minister. Mr. Dhawan alleged that since the Congress had not backed Mr. Alexander's BJP-sponsored candidature for President, he was now taking revenge. Defending Rajiv Gandhi, Mr. Dhawan pinned the blame squarely on Mr. Singh, saying Rajiv Gandhi would never have put pressure on any Chief Minister.

Meanwhile, Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh too modified his statement about the possibility of “U.S. pressure”: “I was campaigning and really don't know the events which led to the bail and release of Mr. Anderson,” he said. Those who could answer questions were Mr. Arjun Singh, and the then senior officials of the State government, he pointed out, stressing that Rajiv Gandhi had left his campaign and rushed to Bhopal to meet the families of the victims.

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It all goes around to who bells the cat .

It is just a save-our-skin act which is going on over the shrouds of the bhopal gas victims.

Shame on all the drama - vultures are much better in act compared to our political scenario.

If this is what we have achieved after 100 years of freedom struggle - just proves again JUSTICE DELAYED IS JUSTICE DENIED.

from:  Gouri
Posted on: Jun 13, 2010 at 14:00 IST

Government at every level, Investigating agencies, and Judiciary conspired and actively worked against the Bhopal victims. No amount of PR spin will cover up this fact. Bhopal verdict has shown conclusively that we live in a democracy that does not represent its people. We live in a system that puts safety of rich and powerful above anything else.

from:  Krishna Reddy
Posted on: Jun 12, 2010 at 12:37 IST

Rahul Gandhi was talking big about release of terrorists in exchange of hijacked Indian Airlines passengers during NDA rule. Now his own father's role is suspected in the release of Mr Anderson. What he has to say for this? As in the case of Bofors, Bhopal is also haunting Congress. Rajiv Gandhi's own comments about 1984 Sikh riots point out the culture of Congress. How long we have to tolerate all this happenings in the name of Secularism? We urgently need people at top who really possess high morale and not an incompetent man like Manmohan Singh, who is just a puppet in the string controlled by Sonia and her cohorts. It is unfortunate that media - both electronic and print - neglects serious issues like the above in exposing real villains of India.

from:  S.R. MURALIDHARAN
Posted on: Jun 12, 2010 at 09:42 IST

India sold itself cheap in two ways. By delaying this for such a long time and this verdict. In China death sentence was given, and implemented within a year, in the case of milk powder contamination, which killed about 10 kids. India should show some value to its human beings.

With nuclear accident in the horizon, we should at least now wake up the fact that the 500 crore compensation cap is unfair to the core. Even for animal safety, Companies spend more money in their countries.

from:  J Krishnan
Posted on: Jun 12, 2010 at 09:03 IST

All this rage is contrived and for public consumption only. The finger pointing is all meaningless for the horses have long bolted and the barn doors were shut decades ago.

from:  Anil Kotwal
Posted on: Jun 12, 2010 at 08:07 IST

The glaring fact that the Congress Party does not care for the "aam admi" and only for money has been clearly proved.Trying to sweep things under the carpet will not help.

from:  S N IYER
Posted on: Jun 12, 2010 at 07:12 IST

Mr Rajiv Gandhi is dead and he can not defend himself. So why blame him after 25 years of incident.CIA report may be forged to create differences beween political parties in India.More or less Mr Anderson was not personally resposible for Bhopal disaster.Accidents happen all over world.Union carbide did not do it purposly it happened by some ones mistake.Union carbide did pay comensation for victims but our government did not pay them properly.It is duty of our government to take care of its people and still if they have not paid some victims they should do so.

from:  vm
Posted on: Jun 12, 2010 at 04:13 IST

now this was a very immature statement on the part of congress. government is because of party which in turn is accountable. congress blaming NDA for not taking appropriate steps during their tenure was another blunder. blaming each other wont work this time.
seriously speaking ongoing term of UPA is most awful government and politics too have reached the worst standards of its times.

from:  vijay kumar
Posted on: Jun 12, 2010 at 04:07 IST

Facts can not be unearth since congress could not tell about our neta jee SUBASH CHANDRA BOSE WHO WAS KILLED AFTER TRANSFER OF POWER TO OUR SO CALLED INDIANS WHO HAVE RULED INDIA SINCE THEN EVEN AFTER THREE ENQUIRIES BY GOVERNMENTS OF INDIA

from:  ASHOK KUMAR
Posted on: Jun 12, 2010 at 00:24 IST
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