New Delhi: New Delhi: Amidst allegations of soft handling the Bhopal gas tragedy case, senior Congress leader and former Madhya Pradesh CM Arjun Singh spoke for the first time in his defence on Wednesday.
Singh rejected allegations that he had been soft on Warren Anderson saying that he ensured that the Union Carbide CEO was arrested after the tragedy.
“I personally briefed the officers (about) the decision to arrest Anderson and the Superintendent of Police escorted him to the state guest house for detention when he landed in Bhopal a day after the tragedy,” a frail Singh read out from a statement, while remaining seated in the Rajya Sabha.
He informed the House that Anderson was “so arrogant” when he got surprised that the CM himself had not arrived to receive him. He said he had also given the orders in writing to the officials.
Singh insisted that he had to let Anderson be in state protection and let him fly out quickly because there was threat of his being lynched by Bhopal mobs. Giving for the first time his side of the story, Singh
said it was "incongruous that Anderson took a state plane to
leave Bhopal" but did not go into details, saying he did "not
want to enlarge on these things as it would add grief and
“I did it with a heavy heart but I had to ensure his physical safety so that trial could be carried out against him,” Singh said, adding he would do it again if he was the CM of the state now.
Anderson and two other Carbide executives were picked up by police as soon as their aircraft touched down. They were whisked away through a side gate to avoid the waiting press corps.
Singh appeared to point fingers at the late P V
Narasimha Rao in the exit of Anderson. "The Chief Secretary Brahm Swaroop informed me that there have been
persistent calls for granting bail to Mr Anderson from Home
Ministry officials in Delhi. I told him (MP Chief
Secretary) that he can do whatever he likes, but the arrest be
duly recorded so that we can summon him whenever we want," said Singh who did not share a good relationship with
Rao during his days as HRD Minister in Rao`s Cabinet at the
Singh said the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was on tour in Harsukh town of Hoshangabad district in the state when he initially telephoned the Prime Minister`s Office.
He said he had offered to step down as chief minister when Gandhi visited Bhopal Dec 6, 1984.
"But Rajivji turned down the offer. He said providing relief to the affected should be the priority," Arjun Singh said.
Rajivji did not not utter a single word in the next two
days either in support of Mr Anderson or try to mitigate his
problem. Attaching motive to the then Prime Minister would be
a figment of imagination of persons who can see nothing
constructive of a person of that stature," he said giving a
clean chit to Gandhi. He also said that Rajeev’s team had reached Bhopal within hours of the accident.
Singh said he was ready to share the blame “that is due to me and will not shift it onto anyone else. I am ready to suffer the blame.”
He also said that he endorsed the government of India’s efforts at deporting Anderson from the US and all claims to victims should be cleared. He called upon the PM Manmohan Singh to pressurise President Obama when he visits India for Anderson’s extradition.
Not satisfied with Singh`s version, Leader of
Opposition Arun Jaitley said that the senior Congress leader
was attributing blame on people who were not alive, neither
the then Union Home Minister nor the Chief Secretary.
Jaitley said if Rajiv Gandhi had no sympathy with
Anderson, then why did he listen to the Home Ministry. "His
statement is concealing more".