New Delhi: In a dramatic turn of events, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi Saturday announced resignation of his Minister of State for Home Amit Shah, allegedly involved in the 2005 staged killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, but the Congress termed it "too little, too late."
"Amit Shah has sent his resignation to my bungalow. I will complete the formalities after returning from here. I accept his resignation," said Modi, who arrived here to attend the 55th meeting of the National Development Council, the country`s top policy forum, which was chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Modi, who had kept mum on the entire controversy, told reporters that Shah was innocent and alleged that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was misusing the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to fabricating the case against Shah, his close aide.
Meanwhile, reports from Ahmedabad said the CBI continued to hunt for Shah, who went absconding Thursday. The chief metropolitan magistrate of Ahmedabad Friday rejected Shah`s plea for anticipatory bail.
The chief minister added that the due legal course will be followed by Shah. "Amit Shah will respect the legal system of the country. And I believe the Indian law will give him justice," said Modi.
The Congress quickly rubbished the resignation announcement.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi told reporters that with Shah and several police officers charged with murder, extortion and abduction in the case, "the true face of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been exposed".
"The resignation has come too little, too late. To resign after resisting and delaying the issue for days and weeks is not graceful nor voluntary. There is no remorse, no contrition, no acceptance and no apology. The BJP leadership and Narendra Modi are fully supporting and justifying the actions till now."
Singhvi added that BJP was resorting to all these tactics as Shah was important to Modi and Modi was important to BJP.
Home Minister P. Chidambaram also questioned BJP`s intention, saying the party should have spoken out when the case was taken up in the Supreme Court in January this year. "Why this belated and stimulated reaction," he asked.
But an angry Modi alleged that the charges against Shah were part of the Congress-led central government`s "conspiracy" against Gujarat. "It is an example of a conspiracy to trouble the development of Gujarat. Amit Shah is totally innocent. The allegations are fabricated and politicised," the chief minister said.
Modi said getting the CBI involved in the case was a reaction from a "failed" central government.
"When the people of India expressed their anger and warned the government in Delhi against price rise in the form of a massive bandh, the Congress-led central government which has failed on all fronts completely politicised the CBI and are misusing it. They are trying to create obstacles in the way of Gujarat`s journey to development," Modi added.
The BJP also quickly came to Modi`s aid. "The Congress needs to learn that the more they try to scratch Modi, it will boomerang on them," party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters here. He also ruled out any possibility of Modi stepping down.
Congress party general secretary B.K. Hariprasad also slammed Modi, saying he has no right to criticise the CBI as the probe was held under the supervision of the apex court.
"By attacking CBI, the BJP is attacking the apex court. The CBI investigation is being monitored by the Supreme Court. And Modi is speaking against the Supreme Court," Hariprasad said.
Sheikh was killed in an alleged gunfight with the police Nov 26, 2005 and police accused him of being a Lashkar-e-Taiba activist. They claimed he had come to Ahmedabad to target senior political leaders. His wife Kausar Bi went missing later.
The CBI, which took over the case under Supreme Court direction, had charged 14 police officers of Gujarat and Rajasthan with abducting and killing Sheikh. Based on the telephonic conversation records between the police officers and Shah during the course of the "encounter", the CBI has charged Shah too with murder.