Digvijay Singh again: US pressure freed Anderson

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Jun 12 2010, 04:03am hrs
Under attack from the Opposition BJP for freeing former Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson within hours of his arrest in December 1984 for the Bhopal gas leak disaster, the ruling Congress took a direct hit on Thursday from its own when party general secretary Digvijay Singh said that Anderson was released under US pressure.

While the Congress was quick to distance itself from his remarks, Singhs statement sought to lend credence to speculation that the then government at the Centre under Rajiv Gandhi had a role in the release of Anderson. The statement has caused acute embarrassment to the Congress.

The state government hardly had any role to play in this case. The case was being investigated by the CBI; the compensation was decided by the judiciary. Warren Anderson going away could have been under American pressure, said Digvijay Singh who was a minister in the Arjun Singh government in Madhya Pradesh at the time of the incident. He said a committee at the Centre had taken all decisions regarding this case and the only task of the Madhya Pradesh government was to get the decisions implemented.

Asked about Digvijay Singhs remarks, Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan refused comment and reiterated the partys stand on this issue. I am only talking about the official Congress statement. We would like to look to the future and ensure rehabilitation of all those who are still suffering. Those who have been convicted be brought to justice, Natarajan told reporters here.

Asked about the impression that the Congress was responsible for Anderson leaving the country, she said, Courts have already heard the matter and people have been convicted. Twenty years hence, we should concentrate on those who are still suffering.

Former information & broadcasting minister Vasant Sathe also said there was a collusion between the Madhya Pradesh government and some people at the Centre which allowed Anderson to escape justice in the Bhopal gas leak case.

There was collusion between the state government and some people in the Central government, probably in the home ministry, Sathe said. I cannot guess the names of the people. The (Bhopal) collector says he got orders from the chief secretary. Arjun Singhji knows all the facts, he said.

Earlier in the day, the BJP demanded that the Congress apologise to the nation for allowing Anderson to get away. BJP demands an impartial probe into the circumstances which led to the escape of Anderson. Such a major step to allow him to leave the country could not have been taken without the consent of the late Rajiv Gandhi, BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.

A state government plane cannot carry a passenger without the permission of the CM. As per rules, a minister or a chief secretary has to be on board when the aircraft is in use, he said, adding that the person who had accompanied Anderson to Delhi should be named.