As though the opposition’s attacks aren’t enough, there is now a split between the Congress top brass and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over Law Minister Ashwani Kumar’s indiscretions. With Singh totally backing his minister, there is no love lost for Kumar in Congress circles. It is no secret that Kumar was the PM’s choice, and the party had resisted his induction as Law Minister.
However, what became evident during a late-night meeting at the PM’s residence on Friday, according to sources, was UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s displeasure at the collateral damage done to the party’s image due to the Kumar/CBI episode. Sonia expressed surprise at the turn of events and said she came to know about the law minister’s tangling with the CBI director through newspapers, sources said. An angry Sonia came down on ministers charting “independent courses” and “bringing disrepute to the party and government”, sources added.
“I agree that the party cannot be involved in the government’s day-to-day business but when sensitive decisions are involved, it must be kept in the loop,” Sonia reportedly said.
It is the party that is called upon to manage the allies after government goofs up, she added. Sonia even told the gathering, which included Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Defence Minister A K Antony and party leader Ahmed Patel, that government mishandling led to the DMK exit. On the JPC and 2G front, the party assured Singh that it would evolve a strategy to handle it but expressed concern over the course the Coalgate scam would take.
It was Chidambaram, who explained to his party colleagues at Friday night’s meeting the pros and cons of the legal predicament on the Coalgate front, and the observations the Supreme Court can make. “It is a matter of propriety,” a Congress minister said, voicing the Sonia’s view on whether the minister should have given “legal inputs” to the CBI director.