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Minister job in line of fire

New Delhi, Jan. 13: Law minister Hans Raj Bhardwaj looks like on the way to becoming the second ministerial casualty of the Bofors scandal.

Amid rising Opposition demand for his dismissal, the Congress today said: “The law must take its own course and the guilty must be punished.”

It is just another way of saying Bhardwaj is expendable. In 1992, the then external affairs minister, Madhavsinh Solanki, was similarly dropped by P.V. Narasimha Rao after it came to light that he had given the Swiss authorities a note to halt the Bofors probe.

This time, Bhardwaj is in trouble for sending additional solicitor-general B. Datta to London to convey to the authorities there the lack of evidence about alleged Bofors middleman Ottavio Quattrocchi’s source of money. The communication will lead to lifting the freeze on the accounts of the Italian businessman, who was close to the late Rajiv Gandhi.

Congress sources dismissed suggestions that Bhardwaj, counted among Sonia Gandhi “loyalists”, had “acted” on the “wishes” of the Congress president, as the Opposition is alleging.

The sources said the minister was “bending over backwards to please the powers that be” because his Rajya Sabha tenure is ending in March and he is uncertain of getting another term.

With the theory of his “acting on his own and putting the Prime Minister and the Congress president in great embarrassment” gaining currency in the party, the minister could be eased out when the scheduled cabinet shuffle takes place.

The sources said that in recognition of his loyalty to 10 Janpath, Bhardwaj might be made a governor when the next round of vacancies is filled.

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