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Home > News > PTI

Natwar manages to stay on in government

November 07, 2005 22:04 IST

Beleagured K Natwar Singh has managed to shake off the challenge to his continuance in the government despite a section of Congress, as also the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, gunning for him in the wake of the Volcker Committee report.

Singh, in the process, was relieved of the charge of the External Affairs Ministry and made a minister without portfolio by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was ina dilemma in the wake of conflicting pressures.

With the Congress being named a beneficiary along with Natwar Singh in the Volcker report, it was a tightrope walk for Dr Singhconsequent tothe Iraqi oil-for-food scam turning into a major political controversy in India.

"Natwar Singh got the support of the Left parties,Dravida Munetra Kazhagam,Nationalist Congress Party and several other parties in the ruling United Progressive Alliance, except the Congress," a senior party leader said wryly, echoing similar sentiments reportedly expressed by Dr Singh to leaders of some Congress allies.

Singh's proximity with UPA chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi helped him retain his ministership under a compromise worked out after hectic consultations between Dr Singh and Sonia.

From day one,Singh had been on the offensive. He repeatedly said there was no question of his resigning, maintaining he had not done anything wrong. He also questioned the credibility of the Volcker Committee, whose findings he described as 'baseless and untrue'.

The compromise could have its flip side asSingh could continue to be the target of the opposition attack, which wants not only his ouster but a Central Bureau of Investigation probe in the matter and registration of criminal cases against him.

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Since the controversy broke out, Congress had left Singh to fend for himself, with party spokespersons limiting their comments to drive home the point that the organisation was in no way involved, either directly or indirectly, in the scam.

A section in the Congress believes that the Volcker issue, if not properly handled, could become a 'repeat' of Bofors, which had hit the party hard, contributing to its fall from power in 1989.

Besides, this section believes that the leadership had 'overreacted' to the issue, as it was just a matter of some references in the annexures of the report.

It also feels that it was not mere coincidence that the Bofors kickbacks issue had broken out when the Rajiv Gandhi government was settling down, while the Volcker issue had erupted when the Dr Singh administration had gained stability.

Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi hailed Dr Singh's decision as a 'wise' one. He said this 'middle path' would avoid any conflict of interest.

Complete coverage: The Volcker report

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