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Buta gets time for salute

New Delhi, Jan. 25: Buta Singh will take the salute at the Republic Day parade in Patna tomorrow, as he had declared soon after the Supreme Court indictment.

Whether Buta would continue to be governor of Bihar beyond Friday will depend on the reading skills of home minister Shivraj Patil. The minister ' busy meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and the law minister during the day ' had till late this evening found time to cover 253 of 400-plus pages of the judgment.

After the series of parleys, the home minister said the government would take a decision on the governor only by Friday as “we are still studying the judgment”.

While Patil digests the contents of the remaining 147-plus pages of the scathing ruling, the Congress and the Centre will be trying to reconcile their differences on the fate of the governor.

Pressure is rising from the Congress to recall Buta after a majority verdict ruled that he acted in undue haste in recommending the dissolution of the hung Bihar Assembly.

But the Centre still appears to be circumspect. The government fears that a recall could be construed as an admission that the Union council of ministers “erred” by accepting the governor’s report.

Such an interpretation could cast a shadow of doubt on the role of the Prime Minister, who heads the council of ministers, and the President, who gave his assent in somewhat curious circumstances.

Congress sources said Sonia’s “image” must not be “sullied” for the sake of “protecting” Buta, not after the way she stressed on probity in public life at the AICC plenary. If no action was taken immediately, sources said they feared that the assertions in Hyderabad would sound “hollow”.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi’s statement that the judgment must be implemented in “letter and spirit” was taken to reflect the party’s stand.

A proposal to send Buta to another state was being considered. The tenure of governors in quite a few states ends next month. But the Congress appeared dead set against any rehabilitation of Buta.

The Centre is also thinking whether a petition should be moved to seek a review of the court ruling.

The “voluminous” judgment, the Saudi Arabian king’s visit and the consequent busy schedule of the leadership ' plus the intervening Republic Day ' have brought some respite for the Centre and Buta.

The governor, who has taken a defiant stand till now, is expected to use the interregnum to try and keep his job and the Centre to put in place an exit policy for him.

Official sources said that while in principle it was agreed Buta’s continuance in Patna was “untenable”, he could not be booted out “ignominiously” for several reasons.

The first: the state government has to go through the Republic Day proceedings without a glitch.

The second contention was that the verdict was split. The minority judgment deemed there was nothing unconstitutional in the notification dissolving the House.

Last, there was a feeling that the executive must not “buckle” under the judiciary’s observations all the time.

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