Within hours of the Madras High Court rejecting Home Minister P. Chidambaram's plea for dismissal of a petition questioning his election to the Lok Sabha in the 2009 polls, the BJP asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to drop him from the Cabinet as he had lost the ‘moral authority' to continue as Minister. However, the Congress firmly stood by Mr. Chidambaram. The Home Minister rejected the demand, saying that he was ‘astonished at the monumental ignorance' of the Opposition.

Addressing a press conference here on Thursday, BJP president Nitin Gadkari said Mr. Chidambaram, who had been embroiled in so many controversies, could not continue as Minister.

Recalling that his party had also made allegations against Mr. Chidambaram in the 2G scam and the Aircel-Maxis deal (which were denied by the Home Minister), Mr. Gadkari said: “What more evidence does the Prime Minister need? Is this not enough evidence? On moral grounds, Mr. Chidambaram has no right to continue in office. He should have resigned earlier. We had boycotted him in Parliament yet the Prime Minister did not take it seriously.”

The BJP chief enumerated all the charges levelled against the Home Minister in recent months, and said: “In spite of all this, why are the Congress, the UPA, the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi giving him shelter? Ms. Sonia Gandhi had said that she will not bear with corruption and will take action. Then why are the Prime Minister and Ms. Gandhi bearing with Mr. Chidambaram's corruption? Why has no strong action been taken despite the High Court verdict?”

Backing his Cabinet colleague, Law Minister Salman Khurshid said: “The BJP wakes up in the morning and says the Home Minister should resign. God knows how many times the Home Minister would have resigned had he accepted whatever the BJP said.”

Mr. Khurshid said elections could be challenged only through an election petition. Media reports were creating the impression that this was a criminal trial, which was not the case.Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh said: “What case has he [Mr. Chidambaram] lost? It's an election petition. He has not lost a case, which has anything to do with his working as the Home Minister.”

Mr. Singh dismissed AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa's remark that Mr. Chidambaram's continuance in the government would be a “blot on democracy,” saying, “As far as Ms. Jayalalithaa is concerned, it is a political issue. The Election Commission has declared Mr. Chidambaram elected and that is it.”

More In: National | News