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Arjun Singh mum on quotas
April 30, 2006 20:06 IST
In the eye of a political storm over the controversial move on reservations in elite educational institutions, Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh held an intriguing press conference on Sunday, which he refrained from openly pushing his pro-reservation agenda but subtly attacked his cabinet colleague Kapil Sibal who had given the impression of being opposed to quotas.
In the face of explanations sought from him by the Election Commission over the move for the reservations in the middle of election campaigning in five states, the 75-year-old Congress veteran maintained that 'my lips are sealed' and said that he would speak on the subject only after the assembly poll results are out on May 11.
But he faced a volley of questions on the issue, which he deftly deflected. The fact that Singh, who has avoided the media in the middle of the controversy over reservations, had called a press conference had generated speculation that he might have a major announcement to make.
However, he chose to talk on reservation without backtracking or openly advocating it and to project himself as a veteran warrior against the RSS, about which he distributed a long written statement.
In an apparent reference to Sibal's remarks in Germany, which were perceived to be anti-reservation, -- something the Science and Technology Minister since denied -- a reporter asked why should ministers speak out of turn, Singh said that 'it is certainly not desirable'.
He indirectly confirmed reports that he complained to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh against Sibal by stating that decorum prevents him from saying what he had told Dr Singh and it was for him to take a view in the matter.
Asked what his appeal was to students agitating against reservation, Singh said he would only appeal to them that they should not listen to those who were 'instigating' them.
Asked to comment on Rahul Gandhi saying that both pro and anti-reservationists have 'valid reasons', he said he would not say anything about it.
In the press conference, Singh fielded a wide range of questions, including the late prime minister P V Narasimha Rao's book on Ayodhya in which he projected himself as a scapegoat, Natwar Singh's diatribes against Congress and Uma Bharati floating a new political outfit.
On Natwar Singh's remarks that he was being targeted and the Congress was not being spoken of, Singh said, "The Congress is nowhere in the picture. I am confident that it has not compromised and will not compromise."
Noting that Natwar Singh's meeting with him a couple of days ago had no significance, he made it was plain that if the former minister has spoken, which was a breach of party discipline, action could be taken.
"All controversies end at the grave," he quipped while sidestepping comments on Rao's book. He also evaded replies to former minister M L Fotedar's charge that Manmohan Singh had sided with Narasimha Rao after the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
Complete coverage: The reservation issue