On Tuesday, before Home Minister P Chidambaram’s statement in the Lok Sabha, the Congress’ crisis managers ensured that Minority Affairs Minister AR Antulay would retract his remarks insinuating a conspiracy behind ATS chief Hemant Karkare’s death.
When the House was adjourned, Antulay was seen going towards External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s room. Shortly thereafter, he told reporters that the Home Minister’s statement had clarified all points and no further inquiry was called for.
But before backing down, Antulay gave the leadership enough cause for concern, forcing it to go into a huddle at least three times in the last few days. Even though it was conveyed to him that he had to retract or resign, the factors worked against his resignation. He had got wide support from Muslim MPs, his removal could impact the minority votes and his ouster would have looked Opposition’s victory.
At Saturday’s meeting of the party’s core committee, opinion was divided on if Antulay should be asked to quit. Efforts to get him to retract paid off. On Monday, he did retract, partly.
The same night, senior party leaders, including president Sonia Gandhi, met again to discuss the issue. It took another few rounds of meetings on Tuesday before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced that the matter should now be allowed to “rest’’.