Following the exit of law minister Ashwani Kumar on Friday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh now finds himself more vulnerable to attacks from the opposition over his alleged role in the coal blocks allocation scam and the government’s interference in CBI’s probe.
Singh was the overall in-charge of the coal ministry in 2006 when the allocations in question were made and the opposition has been demanding his resignation for the alleged irregularities in the allotment.
What could compound matters for the government is that a joint secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) was also present in the controversial meeting convened by Kumar in his office on March 6 to dilute the CBI probe report, which eventually cost him the law minister’s chair.
Though the Congress party and several of his cabinet colleagues have rallied around Singh and strongly ruled out any wrongdoing on the part of the PMO, the alleged attempts by Kumar as highlighted in the CBI affidavit to delete references critical of Singh’s office.
A nervous government had awaited with bated breath the outcome of the Supreme Court hearing into the coal scam which took place on Wednesday. It heaved a sigh of relief when Kumar escaped any direct strictures, and saved the government from a possible embarrassment.
It also gave the government an option to choose the timing of sealing his fate.
The delay in Kumar’s ouster was due to the government’s legal team interpreting the Supreme Court’s 10-page written order as balanced and that had nothing adverse against the law minister.