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Singh mid-air missile flies at BJP

Natwar Singh leaves the Prime Minister’s residence on Wednesday. At a book release event later in the evening, Natwar termed the UN a “quasi-bankrupt” organisation with no ability to carry out its political responsibilities efficiently.

He also targeted the US for its role in the UN and said there was “virtually no balance of power in decision-making”.

Rejecting the Opposition charge that he had been made a scapegoat, Natwar said: “I am no goat. I am a man.” The former minister added that he would write a book from Thursday. (PTI)

New Delhi, Dec. 7: The shadow of Natwar Singh dogged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from Delhi to Moscow and back.

On his way to the Russian capital on December 4 to attend the bilateral annual summit with President Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister had to face a volley of questions on whether Natwar would remain in his cabinet. The question loomed large till Natwar announced that he would resign.

Today, barely had the Prime Minister reached his residence after he landed in Delhi at 4 pm, when the first caller arrived at 7 Race Course Road. It was Natwar.

The minister without portfolio personally handed in his papers which Singh accepted and sent to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

In the Prime Minister’s original schedule, no time was set aside for Natwar today. Singh was to unveil a statue of Rabindranath Tagore in Parliament, address a meeting on HIV/AIDS with Bill Gates and attend the wedding reception for Congress leader Digvijay Singh’s daughter.

However, the Natwar controversy ensured that the schedule had to be reworked. The former foreign minister continued to protest his innocence and reportedly carried a compact disc with his resignation letter.

The CD featured an interview by a former Iraqi ambassador, Sallah Al Mukhtar, in which he denied that business deals had been struck between the then Saddam regime and the Indian delegation that called on him in 2001.

With Natwar faxing a copy of his resignation letter to Moscow last night, the Prime Minister went on the offens-ive against the Opposition even before his Delhi touchdown.

Singh said the BJP was staging a “drama” on the Volcker report in Parliament to deflect attention from its internal problems. He mentioned the “leadership struggle” and Uma Bharti’s expulsion among the internal problems.

Interacting with journalists aboard the special flight on his way back from Moscow, Singh said in response to a question: “That Parliament should function smoothly is in everybody’s interest. I have said so far that the principal Opposition party, the BJP, is doing drama to direct people’s attention from its internal troubles. There is an internal power struggle; in Madhya Pradesh, there is an internal tussle with Uma Bharti’s expulsion. It is sad that petty politics is forcing people to do everything which is not in the country’s interest.”

Asked if his remarks could provoke the BJP to charge him again with speaking on “domestic politics” from “foreign soil”, Singh said: “I am doing so (criticising the BJP) from Indian soil.”

The journalists were told by an accompanying official that Singh’s statement was correct because the Air-India carrier ' used by other Prime Ministers as well ' belonged to the sovereign republic of India and its passengers were governed by the law of the land.

Just a day ago, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj had slammed Singh for stating shortly after his flight to Moscow took off that he did not attach much importance to its Volcker campaign. Her objection was to the statement being made on “foreign soil”.

Observers feel that the Prime Minister’s comments could recharge the BJP’s campaign, although it had agreed to call a truce with the government and allow Parliament to function if Natwar resigned.

But whether the BJP would sustain the Volcker campaign is an imponderable because sources said the government was privy to evidence that could be “damaging” to the BJP.

The Prime Minister disagreed with the suggestion that the Natwar issue was mishandled by the government and the Congress. “No, I don’t think so,” Singh said.

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