Pressure mounts on Arjun Singh on Anderson controversy

Pressure mounted on Arjun Singh to break his silence on allowing Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson to flee the country.

Last Updated: Jun 11, 2010, 23:55 PM IST

New Delhi: Pressure mounted on Arjun Singh
Friday 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.

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 a news agency 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.

PTI