Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil and intelligence agencies came under fire over the Mumbai terror strikes in a series of cabinet meetings on Thursday.
“The home minister and Intelligence Bureau chief PC Haldar, called to brief about the situation, were both at a loss for words when asked whose work it might be,” a person in the know said, requesting anonymity.
Some ministers wanted to know what was the outcome of the two-day meet of the top cops held over the weekend. “It was perhaps a day of the longest meetings during this government’s tenure,” a senior UPA minister, who didn’t wish to be identified for reasons of protocol, said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and cabinet colleagues went into a huddle early in the day. The Cabinet Committee on Security was the first to meet. It reviewed the security situation after Patil, back from a Mumbai visit, briefed his colleagues.
Real drama followed. At the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs meeting Railways Minister Lalu Prasad reportedly slammed Patil and intelligence agencies for “repeated failures”. He was said to have remarked that newspapers and television had given them much more information than the briefing did.
The PM reportedly listened to his colleagues and spoke only when it became “necessary to intervene”. Patil termed the attacks “very disturbing” in an interaction with media. “Before I could reach there, the terrorists who had attacked... the Cama Hospital, had left and those who attacked the railway station had also left,” he said. Patil refused to talk about terrorists’ identity. “We have certain information but it’s premature,” he said. “It’ll not be proper to share premature information.”
A Congress minister, also requesting anonymity, said the PM was likely to consult UPA allies on counter-terrorism measures. “We don’t want to target any particular community, but the situation can’t be allowed to spiral out of control,” he said.
The CPI demanded Patil’s resignation. The CPM, however, was restrained. “We don’t think it’s fair to make political comments now. We should wait for the operation…to get over,” Politburo member Sitaram Yechury told HT.