The UPA government is in a fix. If it cedes ground to the opposition and asks embattled Law Minister Ashwani Kumar to go, it would amount to admission of guilt. But his continuance is damaging the government and the party.
Tactically, it was decided that under no circumstances should the government formally admit to the court any wrongdoing on the part of Kumar. “That would make the whole government culpable,” explained a leader.
It’s clear that the high command may be solidly behind Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and is keen to protect and safeguard his image, but has a rather more dim view of the law minister, who is a political lightweight even in his home State of Punjab.
The party is getting so hurt in the process of trying to save a minister who clearly acted out of turn, that it is very irritated over the PM supporting him. In fact, the buzz in the party is that Kumar would have to go — and none in the Congress would lament his exit.
But the Sonia-Singh differences, sources said, have been growing. UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi was not in favour of handing over a special package to Nitish Kumar, the stability of whose government in Bihar only comes at a deep cost to any prospect of a Congress revival in the State.
The party is desperately hoping to cash in on the Muslim vote bank in Bihar, but backing Nitish in his anti-Narendra Modi posturing will obviously not help that project. Anyway, Sonia’s apprehension that the Bihar chief minister will accept the financial help but not lead his party out of the NDA was proved right. The JD(U) also joined other opposition parties to seek JPC chairman PC Chacko’s ouster.
Sonia is apparently also dissatisfied with the way the 2G/JPC and Coalgate issues have been handled by the government.