NEW DELHI: Congress leader Kamal Nath today rejected reports that he was asked to step down as General Secretary in-charge of Punjab over his alleged role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and said he quit to ensure that attention was not diverted from the issues affecting the state.
He denied that Congress President Sonia Gandhi asked him to quit the post, adding that she understood the reasons he gave in his letter to the party to step down as in-charge of Punjab.
"I called Rahul Gandhi and told him I am sending the letter...I read him the letter. He told me to send it to the Congress President...I called Sonia Gandhi and told her that this is in the interest of the party and we should not let them use this politics," he said.
Kamal Nath said Gandhi spoke with him again after she received the letter and told him that "well if this is your reason, fine."
On being asked whether he was forced to step down as the in-charge after allegations over his role in the anti-Sikh riots resurfaced, the senior-most Lok Sabha MP wondered why the issue of his alleged role in the riots was being raked up after 32 years. He said the Nanavati Commission which investigated the anti-Sikh riots had absolved him.
"It is nothing but a political ploy to divert from the real issues," he said.
"There was an adjournment motion on which Akalis spoke, L K Advani of BJP spoke. No one pointed fingers at me," he said.
He claimed that the real issues affecting Punjab such as drugs, farmer plight, mis-governance are being ignored.
Responding to a poser on a letter reportedly written by his former Cabinet colleague M S Gill, Nath said he never raised the issue of 1984 riots with him when they were Cabinet colleagues nor in the Cabinet.
Gill had yesterday described his appointment is akin "rubbing salt on wounds". Kamal Nath rejected suggestions that the Nanavati panel absolved him due to 'lack of evidence'. He said the report should be read in its entirety. He said he was at the Rakabganj Gurudwara near Parliament House after he was told that a crowd had gathered here.
He said that policemen at the scene asked him to engage the crowd till reinforcements arrived.
"I left as soon as I saw the reinforcements arrive," he said.