Even as Congress leader Arjun Singh is being increasingly blamed for the release of former Union Carbide Corp chief Warren Anderson in 1984, the then Madhya Pradesh chief minister has continued to maintain his silence on the issue.
While some former Madhya Pradesh officials connected with events related to Anderson's release have pointed fingers at Arjun Singh, his own colleagues in the Congress have also indicated that the former chief minister has to explain why and how Anderson was let off in the Bhopal gas leak case.
Anderson, a proclaimed offender in India in the 1984 chemical disaster that killed thousands of people, is currently in the US.
After Congress leaders Digvijay Singh, Vasant Sathe and Satyavrat Chaturvedi, party MP R.K. Dhawan - a close aide to then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi - said Friday that Arjun Singh was the only person who could answer how Anderson left the country.
The Congress, too, has maintained ambivalence on questions related to Arjun Singh while stoutly denying any linkage of Anderson's release to Rajiv Gandhi.
"All avenues should be explored to arrive at the truth about Bhopal gas leak case, including reopening of cases," Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan said. She added that responsibility should also be fixed for any lapses.
Singh, who met Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday, has preferred to keep quiet since the verdict in the Bhopal gas leakage case. Television crews have been camping outside his residence at 17 Akbar Road in New Delhi for the past three days in the hope that he may speak to them on the issue.
Congress sources said that the former chief minister was not given to impulsive reactions and his move to remain quiet on Anderson's release must be a well-thought decision.
While Congress leaders are not willing to hazard a guess about the exact reasons for Singh's silence, they feel that his stance may be helping the party deflect questions about Anderson's release. However, the leaders added that they were not sure of the course he will adopt in the future.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has also targeted Arjun Singh for Anderson's release, asking him to explain if he gave permission for the release or was asked to do so.
Arjun Singh is at present a member of the Congress Working Committee, the highest decision making body of the party.
Party sources said that the former chief minister and human resource minister in the first United Progressive Alliance government has lost some of his influence in the party in the past few years. His daughter was denied a Congress ticket in the last Lok Sabha elections and Singh could not make it to Manmohan Singh's cabinet team.
Former director of Madhya Pradesh civil aviation department R.C. Sondhi said Thursday that Anderson was whisked out of Bhopal. The then collector of Bhopal Moti Singh also said that Anderson was released on a surety bond of Rs.25,000 within two hours of his arrest on the orders of the then chief secretary, Braham Swarup.
On Dec 2-3, 1984, poisonous methyl-iso-cyanate gas leaked from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal in the night, killing thousands immediately and many more over the years and maiming several others.