| A Sikh woman at a protest rally in New Delhi. (Reuters)
New Delhi, Aug. 10: The uproar against the anti-Sikh riots claimed its first political victim 21 years after the atrocity and on a day the country’s most respected politician was forced to articulate an embarrassing somersault.
Jagdish Tytler, who found himself portrayed as the symbol of the government’s inaction over the G.T. Nanavati Commission report, announced his resignation from the Union ministry tonight.
The resignation was an expected end to a sequence of events that unfolded overnight ' the most stunning of which was the retreat by the government from its stand that no action needed to be taken on the report that recommended further investigations.
It fell upon Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to declare the turnaround.
With Tytler’s quit letter apparently in his pocket, the Prime Minister told Parliament that cases against those named by the commission will be “re-examined” and “reopened” ' a pledge that also puts Congress MP Sajjan Kumar under pressure.
The government’s change of stance ' it had earlier said it couldn’t move against anyone on “mere probability” ' came under Left pressure. The CPI and CPM had declined to vote against an Opposition-sponsored adjournment motion in the Lok Sabha unless the Centre acted on the commission’s report.
After Singh’s statement in the House ' Tytler’s resignation hadn’t been made public yet ' the Left voted against the motion, helping defeat it 254-128.
Through the morning, Tytler had resisted pressure to quit till the Prime Minister summoned him to a meeting. There, in the presence of defence minister Pranab Mukherjee and home minister Shivraj Patil, Singh is believed to have got his minister of state for NRI affairs to resign, though the official version is that the letter was given to Sonia Gandhi later.
The Prime Minister then set off for the Lok Sabha for the debate on the Opposition’s motion. “The government respects (the) perceptions and sentiments expressed in this House,” he told the MPs.
“Our government assures the House that wherever the commission has named any specific individuals as needing further examination or specific cases need re-opening and re-examination, the government will take all possible steps to do so within the ambit of law.”
While “re-examination” obviously relates to Tytler, “reopening” spells trouble for Sajjan Kumar. The commission report favoured reopening the cases against Kumar. It spoke of “credible evidence” against Tytler.
Both Tytler and Kumar stayed away from the House for most of the day, arriving just ahead of the voting.
As Sonia left Parliament after the government had won the vote, Tytler went up to meet her. He later announced that he had quit the ministry and had requested Sonia to forward his resignation letter to the Prime Minister.
In Parliament, the Prime Minister promised to take whatever action still possible against the officials ' many of them retired ' named in the commission’s report. He also pledged more steps to rehabilitate the pogrom’s victims.
Singh defended the Congress and its top leadership and signed off with a mention of Gujarat, saying “all parties should rise to work together ' to ensure that such tragedies ' whether in Delhi or Gujarat ' never again take place”.