Minority Affairs Minister AR Antulay managed to keep his job on Tuesday after he backtracked and accepted the government's version that Maharashtra Anti- Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare was killed by the bullets of Pakistani terrorists, and there was no other conspiracy involved.
The week-long crisis for the UPA government, which began with Antulay raising doubts about the circumstances leading to Karkare's killing during the Mumbai terror attacks, appeared to be over after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sought to put an end to the matter.
"To err is human…the home minister made a detailed statement in the House and Antulay subsequently made a statement. I think the matter should be allowed to rest," Singh said.
Earlier, the government's response on the last day of the session was forced by an aggressive BJP-led opposition which did not allow either House to function through the day, like it did for the past three days.
"The investigators have reached the conclusion that there is no truth whatsoever in the suspicion that there was a conspiracy to eliminate Karkare or others," Home Minister P Chidambaram said in a five-page statement in Parliament.
The statement, tabled in both the Houses after slogan-shouting BJP MPs did not allow Chiadmbaram to speak, is being as seen as a rejection of the points raised by Antulay last week.
Chidambaram also made a veiled criticism of the BJP for questioning Karkare's role in the investigation of the Malegaon blast. "In the days before his death, questions were raised about the genuineness of the investigations that were being conducted by Karkare in a terrorist case," he said. "After his death, questions are being raised about the circumstances in which he was killed. In my view, both are wrong and deeply regrettable."
Antulay, who had so far maintained that he was merely demanding a probe into the circumstances that led to Karkare's killing, showed signs of softening his defiant stand. "I had raised an issue and it has been answered in the home minister's statement, which has cleared all doubts," he told reporters outside Parliament. "I'm satisfied and don't want any further probe in the matter."
He ruled out his resigning from the cabinet. "I should resign for what?" he said. "Will the BJP decide whether I'll remain a minister or not?"
The issue is understood to have been resolved at a series of meetings that preceded Chidambaram's statement in Parliament and provided Antulay with a face-saver -- his name was not mentioned in the statement.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi had discussed the matter with party leaders on Monday night. On Tuesday morning, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee briefed Antulay about the situation.