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Arjun Singh avoids media, meets party leaders

A week after the Bhopal gas leak case verdict, the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister today continued to avoid the throng of waiting media persons.

delhi Updated: Jun 24, 2010 13:18 IST

There were all indications that veteran Congress leader Arjun Singh was inside his house in New Delhi and meeting people. But a week after the Bhopal gas leak case verdict, the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister on Monday continued to avoid the throng of waiting media persons.

"We have instructions not to let the media inside. Intimation will be given to all of you when Saheb wants to speak," said a securityman at the gate of the palatial 17, Akbar Road bungalow, barely half a km from Congress president Sonia Gandhi's residence. There were different layers of security by both gun-wielding para-military personnel and safari-clad security persons at the residence.

Singh, a former governor of Punjab during the peak days of militancy in the 1980s, has been given heavy security since then. The name board - Arjun Singh, MP (R.S.) - was in four languages -- English, Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi.

A large number of OB vans remain positioned outside the house as media persons monitor on phone developments in the nearby All India Congress Committee (AICC) office too. "For the past one week, our duty has been here outside the house - waiting for that yet to come byte from Arjun Singh," said a TV crew member.

When Mahadeo Singh, a Congress activist from Bhopal, emerged from the house, he was cornered by media persons. "I will avoid all your questions," said Mahadeo Singh. Asked whether he had met Singh, he said: "I will not explain anything. You are press people. You know better."

A number of vehicles carrying middle-level leaders moved to and from the residence.

Singh has been maintaining silence since the verdict in the Bhopal gas leak case June 7, as opposition leaders raised the decibel alleging that he, the then Madhya Pradesh chief minister, had let off Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson after the December 1984 gas leak that killed and maimed thousands.

Opposition leaders have alleged that Singh had acted on instructions from then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, under pressure of the United States. Singh's successor and AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh said a few days ago that "Anderson might have been released under US pressure", setting off a fresh controversy.

Political circles feel that Singh is keeping mum to retain his claim of a "loyalist of the Nehru-Gandhi family".

In Bhopal, his daughter Veena Singh has put up a defence for his silence. She said: "Arjun Singh is no political novice that his daughter needs to comment when or what he should speak."

On Sunday, senior Congress leader and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said the then Madhya Pradesh government headed by Arjun Singh had taken the decision to send Anderson out of Bhopal in view of the deteriorating law and order situation there following the gas leak disaster.