New Delhi: Demands for the ouster of home minister Shivraj Patil have intensified in the aftermath of Saturday’s bomb blasts in New Delhi—the latest in a string of terror strikes—with some senior Congress party ministers petitioning party president Sonia Gandhi.
Singled out: Union home minister Shivraj Patil is under tremendous pressure after the Delhi serial blasts. After the Opposition, it is now his own party members who are demanding his sacking. PTI
A senior Congess minister and confidant of Gandhi asked her to take “appropriate” steps because the home ministry’s failure to check terrorist attacks could damage the party’s prospects in crucial state polls this year that will lead to the general election due in the first half of 2009, according to people close to developments in the Congress party.
At an internal Congress party meeting at Gandhi’s 10 Janpath residence, which was called to discuss an organizational revamp and election strategy, other party leaders also echoed the demand, added the people, who didn’t want to be identified.
Patil was not present at the one-hour meeting, which was attended by external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, defence minister A.K. Antony, Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel, and senior Congress leaders Digvijay Singh, Margarat Alva, M. Veerappa Moily and Janardhan Dwivedi.
A senior minister, who also declined to be named, said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will soon call a meeting of United Progressive Alliance, or UPA, constituents to discuss the issue. “It is true that the home minister is under tremendous pressure,” this minister said.
In the past five months, terrorist attacks have taken place in Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Surat, killing at least 130 people. On Saturday, the blasts in New Delhi left 21 people dead.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, the country’s main opposition party, has already made terrorism part of its electoral agenda, ahead of polls in Rajasthan, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh later this year.
The BJP demanded the immediate departure of Patil. ”He should be sacked,” party spokesman Ravi Shanker Prasad said. “The home ministry is conducting itself in a manner which is nothing but criminal negligence.”
Railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, whose Rashtriya Janata Dal is a key ally of the Congress, also conveyed his “displeasure and disappointment” over the handling of law and order to the Congress leadership, the people mentioned earlier said.
The minister told a press conference that he had taken up the matter of internal security with both the Prime Minister and Gandhi. He said he wouldn’t “contradict” demands for Patil’s departure from the home minister’s post.
Congress party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi, however, said the terror attacks couldn’t be treated as a “referendum on anybody’s performance,” adding: “Please don’t reduce it to one individual.”