Congress battles latest crisis

New Delhi, April 30 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met law Minister Ashwani Kumar Tuesday after the Supreme Court slammed the latter for interfering in the CBI probe on alleged irregular allocation of lucrative coal blocks to private companies.

Congress sources said it was becoming politically untenable to defend the law minister but said no action should be taken in haste.

Though the Congress core group is expected to review the matter later Tuesday evening, party chief Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel had a separate meeting with Kumar, said informed sources.

The party said it will “wait and watch”.

“It is a developing situation. It is not proper to jump to any conclusions. Let the legal process reach its conclusion,” Congress spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury told reporters when quizzed on the fate of the law minister.

The Congress has reasons to worry.

First, even if Kumar goes, the party and the government would still not be able to buy peace with the opposition, whose target would then be on the prime minister himself, as he held the coal portfolio for some of the duration of the allocations being probed.

Second, it believes much of the aggressive stance of the BJP is due to the Karnataka assembly polls May 5.

“There will be a change in their stand after May 5,” said a Congress leader.

Congress insiders said it would have been better if the law minister resigned, saving the government and the party the embarrassment it is facing.

Manmohan Singh, who had defended Ashwani Kumar saying that “there was no chance of his resigning” last week, Tuesday said: “We are studying the Supreme Court observation and we will take appropriate action.”

Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions V. Narayanasamy, under whose charge the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) comes, said: “As a minister, I never interfered in the internal affairs of the CBI and our government will never do that.”

The Supreme Court Tuesday described as “very disturbing” the CBI affidavit on the sharing of its report with Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and officials in the prime minister’s office. It criticised the agency for having kept the court in the dark on the issue.

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