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Pressure mounts on Arjun Singh

By The Assam Tribune

NEW DELHI, June 12 � Pressure mounted on Arjun Singh today to break his silence on allowing Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson to flee the country as senior Congress leaders dismissed any role of Rajiv Gandhi in it but one of his top aides said he may have been consulted, reports PTI.

On his part, Singh, who was Madhya Pradesh chief minister in 1984 when the Bhopal Gas tragedy shook the state, maintained a stoic silence, refusing to speak to the media.

Seeking to distance Rajiv Gandhi from the whole controversy, Congress leaders Digvijay Singh and R K Dhawan said the Centre had nothing to do with the Anderson issue and it was for Arjun Singh to respond.

A day after kicking up a controversy by reportedly alleging that US pressure could have led to Anderson leaving the country in December 1984, Digvijay Singh said he was unaware of the developments at that time as he had resigned as Minister in the Madhya Pradesh government and was campaigning for Lok Sabha polls.

In an email response to PTI from the US where he is currently on a tour, he said the �people who can answer this� are �Arjun Singhji, the then CM� as also Brahm Swaroop, the then Chief Secretary of Madhya Pradesh, Moti Singh, the then Collector of Bhopal, and Swaraj Puri, the then SP of Bhopal.

He said Rajiv Gandhi had left his campaign and visited Bhopal immediately, visiting the affected areas and meeting the families of affected persons.

�The government of India extended all possible help immediately to the state government,� Digvijay Singh said.

Echoing Digvijay Singh�s views, R K Dhawan, Private Secretary to Rajiv Gandhi, said Arjun Singh was the �only person who can answer� how Anderson left the country.

He said he did not believe that Rajiv Gandhi would have known about the developments or asked Arjun Singh to provide the airport to Anderson by which he flew out of Bhopal.

Dhawan denied that Rajiv Gandhi had made any call to Arjun Singh relating to Anderson. �On the face of it, it looks as a suo motu decision by the State Government�.

However, P C Alexander, former Principal Secretary to Rajiv Gandhi, said the decision on (letting off) Anderson could have been taken by the Prime Minister in consultation with the Chief Minister.

�Or if you want to put it the other way, you can put it the other way. If the Prime Minister was there, naturally he could have taken the decision or he could have agreed with the decision,� he said.

Asked whether Arjun Singh had let Anderson off without getting any clearance from the Centre, Alexander, who resides here, said �I cannot say that.�

He, however, said Anderson�s name never came up in an early morning meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA) convened by Gandhi to discuss the Bhopal gas tragedy.

Alexander, a former Tamil Nadu Governor, also said senior Congress leader Arjun Singh, then Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, was present in the CCPA, though a Chief Minister was not part of the Committee.

Union Minister Salman Khurshid also contended that Arjun Singh was in command in the State and could respond to these questions.

Congress spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan also appeared to put the onus on Arjun Singh as she insisted that Rajiv Gandhi government had no role to play in Anderson�s escape.

�I categorically deny involvement of the then Central government,� she told reporters when pointed out that some people were alleging that Arjun Singh acted at the behest of Rajiv Gandhi.

Shivraj Singh Chouhan, chief minister of BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, also said it was for Arjun Singh to explain the circumstances in which Anderson left.

�Let Arjun Singh explain it. Whether he did it (gave permission for providing state aircraft) himself or anybody told him to do so. We want a reply from him if a wrong direction was given. And after all, why such a direction was given,� said Chouhan, who has already written a letter in this regard to Arjun Singh.

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