Govt readies to face Opp; PM meets security brass

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Nov 30 2008, 07:46am hrs
Even after Mumbai finally came out of the siege on Saturday as NSG commandos succeeded in flushing out terrorists, the horrifying attack now raises several questions pertaining to national securitysome of which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will attempt to answer at an all-party meeting that he has called on Sunday.

Possibly to prepare itself to face the opposition onslaught, the Congress leadership this evening convened a meeting of its apex decision making body, the Congress Working Committee, where the political strategy to deal with the situation was chalked out. Sonia Gandhi, who chaired the meeting held at her residence, put on record the partys tribute to the officers and policemen martyred in the Mumbai attacks.

In Sundays meeting, Prime Minister Singh is also likely to be questioned by Opposition parties on his approach vis-a-vis Pakistan, especially in the light of Islamabads refusal to send ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha though they had initially agreed to send him. In a bid to put the pressure on Islamabad, Singh had called up his Pakistani counterpart Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and asked him to send the ISI chief to share information regarding the terrorists involved in Mumbai attack.

Prime Minister Singh on Saturday also held series of high-level meetings with top security brass of the country, including national security advisor MK Narayanan, Army chief General Deepak Kapoor, Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Kumar, IB director PC Halder, coast guard DG RF Contractor and other officials to review the situation in Mumbai. Conspicuously, union home minister Shivraj Patil was not part of this meeting, which prompted speculation once again about his possible exit from government.

Admittedly, questions about the absence of synchronisation between the PMO and the home ministry was indicated when the same set of officials held a separate meeting later with the home minister at his residence. Government managers, however, rejected suggestions that Patil was to blame for the incident or that he could be moved out of the home ministry. They contended that not only was there a couple of months left before the Lok Sabha elections would have to be called, they also said that shifting Patil would only mean accepting blame for the terrorist attacks.

There was however, a strong view in a section of the Congress, especially young MPs that someone at the political level should be held accountable. Some of the MPs also did not rule out the possibility of petitioning Rahul Gandhi on the issue.