Though it is a few days away, Thursday seemed to be Ides of March for the Congress when the Manmohan Singh government was left deeply embarrassed with the SC verdict.
Party leaders admitted the judgment has a “negative’’ impact for the party. “It is not a happy situation that the decision of a panel consisting of the PM and home minister has been struck down,’’ said one.
The big question before the party now is how to contain the damage and dilute the growing personal attack on the PM who, the opposition alleges, stands indicted by the court.
On Thursday, the Congress core group, which includes Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, discussed the verdict. There was no word on what transpired at the meeting.
Congress is yet to work out a clear strategy on how to deal with the issue. As of now the party is echoing the PM’s “I-respect-the-SC-verdict’’ statement and trying a counter-attack on the opposition over issues like graft allegations against the Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa or the source of funding of BJP chief Nitin Gadkari’s son’s wedding.
To insulate the PM, Congress leaders came up with varying reactions. Law minister Veerappa Moily saw it as an instance of systemic failure. Spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi saw Thomas’s appointment as an “error’’ that was rectified by the court. He seemed to paint the issue as a legal and not political one and accused the opposition of trying to politicise it.
Singhvi dismissed all questions, including whether Singh and Chidambaram should step down. “Absolutely not,’’ he said, adding that no malafide was alleged or proved. “It is completely wrong to politicise what is a legal verdict based on legal considerations.’’
Congressmen also believe that some of the criticism against the PM will get diluted should he make a statement in Parliament — as he reportedly told some reporters. They also believe the issue would die a natural death, once a new CVC is put in place.
According to them, the verdict would not have any impact on the assembly polls in Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Assam and Kerala — the state Thomas hails from and where he reportedly enjoys the reputation of being a man of integrity.