Defence minister AK Antony, who was to induct indigenously built new warship into the Indian Navy in Mumbai on Saturday, cancelled his trip following a new challenge to the government due to social activist Anna Hazare's indefinite fast in New Delhi.
Just when it was about to start, naval officers announced that Antony was not attending the event and the ship would be commissioned by Navy chief admiral Nirmal Verma.
But they didn't specify the reasons behind the minister's cancellation of the trip. It is for the first time that Antony has cancelled participation in any defence event.
Sources said Antony, who is one of the four key Congress leaders to look after party affairs in the absence of party president Sonia Gandhi, has stepped in to resolve the Hazare crisis.
The anti-corruption crusader has vowed to continue his fast till a strong anti-graft law was enacted and has given an ultimatum of Aug 30 to the government for parliament nod to the Lokpal Bill.
Hazare has also announced a nationwide 'jail bharo' (courting arrest) protest after Aug 30 if the legislation that will set up an independent and powerful anti-graft watchdog doesn't bring the Prime Minister and judiciary under the ombudsman's purview.
Faced with the fresh challenge, a beleaguered Congress, which is heading the coalition government at the centre, held its core committee meeting Friday night under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to assess the political fallout.
The sources said Antony was asked to stay put in Delhi and cancel his trip to Mumbai.