The fate of Minority Affairs minister AR Antulay hung in a balance on Thursday with the Congress reportedly unhappy with his comments questioning the circumstances in which Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare and two other police officials were killed.
PM Manmohan Singh is believed to have asked for the full text of Antulay’s remarks amid indications that he would be asked for an explanation. There is speculation within the party that he may be asked to step down.
As both Houses saw uproar on the issue, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told the Lok Sabha the government would make a statement on the remarks “may be tomorrow.”
A day after he called for a probe into the death of Karkare who was investigating the role of “certain non-Muslims’’ in the Malegoan blasts, Antulay remained defiant. He said he owed no explanation and had neither met nor written to the PM or Congress president Sonia Gandhi. He reportedly also claimed to have received support for his remarks.
His stand came even as the Opposition demanded his head, his party and colleagues distanced themselves from him and Islamabad reportedly sought to use his remarks to claim that it did not have a role in the Mumbai attacks.
“I do not owe an explanation to anyone. I have not said anything which has embarrassed the government and the Congress party. In fact, I have helped the government,” he claimed.
Earlier in the day, Sonia, addressing party MPs saluted the Mumbai martyrs saying: “They have become an inspiration for the nation.”
Party leaders saw her remarks as a snub to Antulay. “He has put the party and the government in an embarrassing situation, it remains to be seen whether he should continue as a minister now,” said a senior leader.
However, spokesman Shakeel Ahmed sought to play down the issue. “He (Antulay) has explained it on the floor of the House (on Wednesday).