Home minister P Chidambaram found himself in the Opposition’s line of fire on Thursday as the Madras high court declined to throw out a malpractice case against his Lok Sabha election in 2009, clearing the decks for him to go on trial.
Backed by party and cabinet colleagues, Chidambaram rejected the Opposition’s call for his resignation, insisting the verdict was a “setback” for his poll rival and not him. He also said his case was just one of 111 petitions filed after the elections.
AIADMK candidate from Sivaganga, Raja Kannappan, had filed a case against Chidambaram, accusing him of electoral malpractices after losing to him by 3,354 votes.
But BJP chief Nitin Gadkari and ADMK chief J Jayalalithaa interpreted the verdict of the HC’s Madurai bench differently. Gadkari said it was high time the minister — on the Opposition radar since the 2G scam — quit. “What more evidence does the PM need? Chidambaram has no moral right to continue in office…,” he said.
Jayalalithaa said the PM should sack Chidambaram if he doesn’t resign. “The AIADMK stand is that Chidambaram won fraudulently. As he has to face a criminal case now, it’ll be blot on democracy if he continues in office.”
“I am astonished by the monumental ignorance displayed by certain leaders,” Chidambaram shot back. “Issues have not yet been framed. Trial has not started. No witness has been examined. At the threshold, an application was filed to strike out pleadings. That application has been partly allowed and paras 4 and 5, which contain allegations against returning officer, police officers, other government servants and bank officials, have been struck out,” he said.
“If pleadings are struck out, it is a setback to the petitioner and not to me,” he insisted.
But BJP’s Prakash Javadekar said if the court had removed just two of 29 allegations against him, it indicated its assessment of them.