The Union Cabinet on Thursday told Home Minister Shivraj Patil to convey to Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh that there were pressing demands from several quarters for the arrest of MNS leader Raj Thackeray under the National Security Act and for a judicial inquiry into the death of Rahul Raj on Monday.
During the discussion on the issue, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he had already written a strong letter to Deshmukh, while Patil said he too had written thrice.
Senior government functionaries told HT that after the routine agenda matters were disposed of on Thursday, Union Minister for Steel Ram Vilas Paswan asked the Prime Minister to have a separate discussion on the Maharashtra issue, following which a one-hour meeting was held.
“There was virtual unanimity on two demands, one for the arrest of Raj Thackeray under NSA and the other for a judicial inquiry in the Rahul Raj incident,” the official said.
While the matter was initially raised by Paswan, it was supported by Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal, Urban Development Minister Jaipal Reddy, Company Affairs Minister Prem Chand Gupta, Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj, Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram, and Minister for Mines Sis Ram Ola.
All the ministers from Maharashtra, except Shivraj Patil, stayed away from the meeting.
The Law Minister is believed to have said that when the matter turns into “police versus public”, a judicial inquiry is called for. An inquiry conducted by the chief secretary of the state is not good enough.
While the Home Minister told the Cabinet that there were 56 cases against Raj Thackeray, Paswan is believed to have retorted that “he will keep getting arrested and keep getting bail”. Paswan also drew a parallel between Raj and the arrest of Vaiko in Tamil Nadu after the latter made a pro-LTTE statement, expressing disappointment with the Deshmukh regime’s handling of the situation.
After the Cabinet meeting, which also discussed the Assam blasts, the Prime Minister attended the Congress’ Central Election Committee meeting chaired by Congress president Sonia Gandhi.