New Delhi, Sept. 30: Suspense over Murli Manohar Joshi’s fate ended today when Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee rejected the human resources development minister’s resignation and asked him to get back to work immediately.
“I will go to office tomorrow,” Joshi said, 11 days after stepping down on moral grounds after the Rae Bareli special court ordered framing of charges against him in the Babri Masjid demolition case.
Vajpayee’s mind was made up once the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court today stayed proceedings against the minister, pending disposal of his appeal. Joshi had filed a review petition yesterday. The Lucknow bench has summoned the case records from the Rae Bareli court and will hold its next hearing on November 4.
The Prime Minister conveyed his decision to Joshi and congratulated him after the minister called to inform him about the stay order.
Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu also spoke to Joshi soon after. The special court had let off Advani while ordering framing of charges against Joshi and six others, including BJP leaders Uma Bharti and Vinay Katiyar.
Encouraged by the reprieve for Joshi, Naidu has advised Bharti and Katiyar to move the high court. The BJP was concerned about the verdict’s implication for Bharti, its chief ministerial candidate in Madhya Pradesh. Some felt the verdict could be used to question her claim to become chief minister if the party is in a position to form the government after the November elections.
A relieved Joshi told reporters that although he had resigned to “uphold the highest moral traditions”, he agreed with the view that the demolition case was “politically motivated” and did not involve issues of “criminal and moral turpitude”.
“Our stand from the beginning is that the charges are politically motivated,” stressed Naidu.
Emphasising that the Ayodhya tangle should be sorted out at the earliest, Joshi said: “Though I never considered myself guilty in the December 6, 1992, incident, I tendered my resignation to honour the court ruling. The cases filed against me and others in this connection by the then government were motivated by political expediency and vendetta.
“I take this opportunity to express my gratitude to thousands of individuals and organisations who expressed their solidarity with me in my decision.”
In a subtle dig at Naidu and his team who saw to it that the BJP turned its back on Joshi for allegedly going against the “official” line by resigning, he said: “I am indebted to those who called on me and sent messages expressing their support at this very decisive moment. They would always continue to be my support and strength.”
The Joshi drama over, Vajpayee turned his attention on another minister in the thick of a controversy, M. Kannappan of the MDMK. Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa has demanded that he should be sacked for allegedly supporting the LTTE and has threatened to invoke the Prevention of Terrorism Act if he enters Tamil Nadu.
Vajpayee told an MDMK delegation he would consult law minister Arun Jaitley on the issue.