Who will blink first in the face-off between the Congress and its former External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh?
The bureaucrat-turned-politician, who attacked Sonia Gandhi and threatened to reveal the party's secrets, would prefer to be expelled so that he retains his Rajya Sabha seat and is free to hit out at the Congress both in the House as well as during the assembly election campaigns in Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal and Punjab.
The Congress, however, does not appear to be in a hurry to expel him. It would rather have him resign lest an expulsion make a martyr of him.
But by suspending him earlier from the party for his role in the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal, the Congress ensured that he does not speak out of turn and abides by the party whip in Parliament that begins its winter session on November 22.
But much would depend on whether Natwar's attack is a one-time reaction to Sonia's comment that she felt betrayed that he misused the party's name in the Iraqi oil deal.
If he persists, the Disciplinary Action Committee, headed by Defence Minister AK Antony, would have little option but to expel him.
Before leaving for Sonia's 10 Janpath residence on Monday to discuss the centenary celebrations of the satyagraha movement, Antony said he has not yet called the DAC's meeting. Earlier, the panel had served a show cause notice on Natwar to which he had replied.
Reacting to questions on why the Congress was not expelling Natwar for attacking Sonia, spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said, "The party will not be dictated about the nature, timing and content of the decision."
He attributed Natwar's diatribe to his "frustration and desperation" following the Pathak Authority's report of his role in the scam.
"Natwar's uncontrolled aggression confirms his sense of guilt. It shows that he had no ideological commitment to the party or leadership and was only interested in the loaves and fishes of office.
He is needlessly provoked by the use of the word 'betrayal'. His own words and action after the Volcker report confirm that 'betrayal' is a very mild word for him.
Also, before lecturing others on culture and etiquette, Natwar and his son Jagat Singh have to look around and introspect on the value and culture they exemplify," he said.
Email Saroj Nagi: firstname.lastname@example.org