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No regrets, says Antulay

The Government will make a statement in Parliament on Tuesday, which is the last day of the ongoing session, on Minority Affairs Minister AR Antulay’s remarks on Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare's death.

india Updated: Dec 22, 2008 23:36 IST

The Government will make a statement in Parliament on Tuesday — which is the last day of the ongoing session — on Minority Affairs Minister A.R. Antulay’s remarks on Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare's death.

While the minister showed no signs of backtracking, the Opposition disrupted both the Houses on the issue for the third
consecutive day on Monday.

“I do not regret what I had said and I stand by my comments," an adamant Antulay told reporters outside Parliament after the BJP-led opposition forced repeated adjournments, demanding his scalp.

The Minister intends to seek permission from Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee to speak in the House on the issue before External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee clarifies the government's stand.

There was no indication whether the ruling party would allow this unless it is sure that Antulay will not repeat his “terrorism plus” statement regarding Karkare's death. The remarks had embarrassed the Congress, given a handle to the
Opposition and Pakistan and fuelled speculation of his resignation after the session.

The Congress has already distanced itself from Antulay's remarks and the government may do the same in its statement while talking about the role of Pakistani terrorists in the Mumbai attacks.

“The issue of Antulay's resignation is still open,” said well-placed sources even as the Congress leadership took note of the wide support the Minister has received from minority MPs across the political parties. It is also aware that any action against him ahead of the Lok Sabha polls could affect its prospects among the minorities.

Even as the matter exercised most UPA members at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's dinner on Monday, Antulay stuck to his stand for a probe into Karkare's killing.

“There is no doubt that Hemant Karkare was killed by Pakistani terrorists. All that I am seeking is a probe into the circumstances of his death. Instead of heading in the direction of North Mumbai, why did he visit the Cama Hospital in South (Mumbai)? This aspect needs to be investigated thoroughly,” Antulay said.

He blamed the media for distorting the facts and giving Pakistan an “opportunity” to create a wedge between different political parties in India, which had put up a united front on the terror issue.

The Left parties have demanded a statement from the government. Senior CPM leader Sitaram Yechury said: “The manner in which BJP was raising the issue strengthens the apprehension that the ATS will not proceed with the investigations into the involvement of Hindu organisations in the Malegaon blasts”.