The Congress on Thursday supported senior leader Arjun Singh’s demand to raise the issue of extradition of Warren Anderson with US President Barack Obama during his visit here in November.
“We certainly feel the issue of extradition must be followed... we believe the issue should be taken up,” party spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan said.
However, the demand did not go down well with a section of the party, which was seemingly upset with Arjun for “unnecessarily” dragging in the name of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “There was no need for him to make this demand,” a senior party functionary said.
But Congress sources said that Arjun, a former Union minister, had made it known to the government a few days ago that he would speak on the Bhopal tragedy in the Rajya Sabha.
Arjun, who was Madhya Pradesh chief minister when the gas disaster struck in December 1984, was under pressure from his Congress colleagues to speak up on Anderson and clear the air over Rajiv Gandhi’s role.
Singh had come prepared to the House with a written speech, which was apparently vetted at the highest level in the party. Congress chief strategist and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Singh were seen engaged in discussion just before the speech.
The Congress does not have any problem with Arjun blaming the Union home ministry then headed by PV Narasimha Rao for allowing safe passage to Anderson.
Arjun’s clean chit to Rajiv Gandhi on Anderson’s escape from law has come as a major relief to the party, which had maintained that the former Prime Minister was unaware of developments related to Anderson’s arrest and subsequent release.
“What he has stated in Parliament speaks for itself…. It is open. We believe it is important to look forward,” Natarajan said.
She also said it was important to look forward to remediation and cleaning toxic waste. “Whatever legal steps are required to bring the perpetrators to book should be taken by the government.”