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Arjun Singh under fire over Anderson's escape

June 11, 2010 18:17 IST

The attack over the escape of former Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson on Friday appeared to be zeroing in on the then Madhya Pradesh chief minister Arjun Singh, with Congress leaders Digvijay Singh and R K Dhawan demanding an answer from the veteran leader.

A day after kicking up a controversy by reportedly alleging that pressure from United States could have led to Anderson leaving the country in December 1984, Digvijay Singh on Friday said he was unaware of the developments at that time as he had resigned as a minister in the Madhya Pradesh government and was campaigning for the Lok Sabha polls.

"In the statement itself, I had clarified that I was campaigning and really don't know the sequence of events which led to the granting of bail and release of Anderson," Singh said.

He said the people who can answer such queries were "Arjun Singh, 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 superintendent of police of Bhopal.

On the action taken by the then central government and the Madhya Pradesh government, Digvijay Singh said he could not 'sit on judgment'.

"The government of India extended all possible help immediately to the state government," Digvijay Singh claimed.

Echoing Digvijay Singh's views, R K Dhawan, private secretary to Rajiv Gandhi, said Arjun Singh was the "only person who can answer" questions about how Anderson left the country.

Joining the attack on 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 to Anderson to fly out of Bhopal) or anybody told him to do so; we want a reply from him if a wrong direction was given. And after all, why was such a direction given," said Chouhan, who has already written a letter in this regard to Arjun Singh.

Congress spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan also appeared to put the onus on Arjun Singh as she insisted that the Rajiv Gandhi government had no role to play in Anderson's escape.

"I categorically deny the involvement of the then central government," she told reporters when pointed out that some people were alleging that Arjun Singh acted at the behest of Rajiv Gandhi.

On Digvijay Singh's reported suggestion about 'US pressure', Natarajan said he had already 'explained' his statement and the question of indicting anyone 'does not arise'.

With regard to the controversy over whether an appeal should have been filed against the Supreme Court verdict watering down the charges, Digvijay Singh said the apex 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 the criminal case was investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

There was a Cabinet sub-committee in the government of India which dealt with and took decisions on the issue, which the state government implemented, Digvijay Singh said.

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