The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Congress sharpens knife for Nitish

New Delhi, July 18: Nitish Kumar may have got just a temporary respite.

The railway minister, who withdrew his “political resignation” on Wednesday at the end of a three-day spat with rivals in his dissidence-racked Samata Party, is sure to come under intense Opposition fire on Monday, when Parliament reconvenes for its monsoon session.

The Congress-led Opposition is likely to demand his resignation on moral grounds because of the spate of rail accidents.

The curtains had barely come down on the resignation drama at Nitish’s 22 Akbar Road official residence when — just a stone’s throw away at 24 Akbar Road — the political affairs committee of the Congress firmed up its strategy to derail him in Parliament.

With crucial Assembly elections looming and the parliamentary polls to follow, the main Opposition party met to identify the issues and chalk out strategies to grill the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. Though the increasing instances of trains getting derailed would not be the sole issue, party sources said they have assumed immediate importance for the Congress.

“Since the travelling public are concerned about the regularity with which rail derailment is taking place under Nitish Kumar, it is natural to expect the Prime Minister to hold the railway minister accountable. Instead, Vajpayee has rejected Nitish’s resignation, though it was tendered for intra-Samata political reasons,” said a member of the 12-member political affairs committee.

The Congress will not accept it, he added, as the Prime Minister owes an explanation to the people.

But Nitish can hope for some consolation, too, as the Congress is sure to take his Samata rival, defence minister George Fernandes, to task for the alarming rate of accidents involving fighter planes.

Perhaps, the only difference would be that the Congress would not accept any explanation from Fernandes, whom the party has been boycotting in Parliament since the Tehelka arms scandal broke last year, but from the Prime Minister.

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