| Natwar leaving Sonia’s house on Monday night. (PTI)
New Delhi, Dec. 5: The Congress announced late tonight after Natwar Singh visited Sonia Gandhi with his wife that the minister had offered to resign.
Congress spokesman Anand Sharma said Natwar spoke to the Prime Minister, who is in Moscow, to tell him that he would hand in his resignation on Manmohan Singh’s return on Wednesday.
After talking to the Prime Minister, Natwar went to 10 Janpath to inform Sonia of his decision to finally quit, a move she might have forced him to make by dropping him from the party’s highest decision-making body last night.
Natwar told Manmohan Singh that he was going to see Sonia. After announcing yesterday he was not going to quit, the minister-without-portfolio did not speak to the media once he emerged from Sonia’s residence.
Observers interpreted the visit as the final exercise to assess the Congress president’s mind. Not that any confirmation was needed after Sonia dropped him from the steering committee.
After the removal from the steering committee, the Congress leadership had expected Natwar to take the hint and step down. But he did not oblige.
To make sure Natwar did not miss the message, Kapil Sibal, party leader and minister, had said earlier in the day: “Description of his stay in the steering committee by the highest body of the party headed by Sonia Gandhi as untenable is a clear message (to Natwar). There can be no clearer message.”
Natwar was not seen in Parliament all day and was described by people close to him as being extremely depressed.
Sibal said: “He is a mature and thoughtful politician. He will understand the circumstances in which the decision has been taken. The message is clear. If he (Natwar) takes time to understand it, what can we do'”
As Natwar kept the party and the government waiting, the Opposition had a free run. Opposition leaders made it clear that they would not allow regular business to be conducted until the government took action that satisfied them.
While the demand still was that Natwar be sacked, the leader of the Opposition, L.K. Advani, alleged that the Congress had “something to hide” and was making the former external affairs minister a “sacrificial goat”.
The fuel for the allegation was provided by Natwar’s son Jagat Singh who said: “We want whatever probe there is to get over soon and let the country know its findings. What I find very objectionable is that in today’s day and age, this kind of witch-hunt is going on to try and find a scapegoat. We will not be scapegoats.”
Advani also latched on to Sibal’s statement. “This government has gone berserk. What does one make of statements made by some ministers ' that there are signals and messages to Natwar to resign' What is the meaning of this statement' It shows the ruling government in very bad light. They are putting the blame of the entire sordid affair at Natwar’s doorstep.
“How can there be two standards' Why should Natwar be blamed and let the Congress go scot-free' Why is Sonia Gandhi still continuing as the chairperson of the National Advisory Council'” he asked.