The Congress has taken a U-turn from its earlier policy of dropping ministers in the wake of alleged scams against them. The party's new stand of closing ranks behind its lawmakers till charges are not established, comes after it found that the pre-emptive move of sacrificing ministers have failed to counter opposition pressure.
This hardened stand of the Congress has the backing of party chief Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. It has already been applied in the case of Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit and Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy.
During the second UPA term, a cautious Congress initially thought it would be able to thwart opposition pressure by dropping ministers. Minister of state in external affairs Shashi Tharoor and Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan had to leave office under this policy.
In the first UPA rule, Sonia Gandhi even forced family-loyalist K Natwar Singh to leave the external affairs minister's chair after the Paul Volcker report named him in the Iraqi oil-for-food scam.
During the AICC plenary session last year, she highlighted this stand while challenging opponents on the issue of corruption: "Even when no charge has been established, we have asked ministers and chief ministers to step down, pending inquiry. How many other parties can make such a claim?"
"But now we see there is no end of opposition attack. They are even targeting the Prime Minister and party president," said a senior Congress minister. "Opposition parties see these resignations as their victories and raise more demands, disrupting parliament," said the minister.
Congress sources claimed there was a debate in the UPA brass even on the timing of former telecom minister A Raja's resignation. Raja was forced to resign before the start of last year's winter session of the parliament. Still, the entire session was washed out as the opposition stuck to its demand for a JPC in the 2G spectrum scam.
The opposition's latest demand is Dikshit's removal after the CAG report on the Commonwealth Games cited financial irregularities. In Chandy's case, a vigilance court in Thiruvananthapuram has asked a probe into his alleged involvement in the palmolien import scam.