Sonia distances herself from Natwar

New Delhi, Nov 15 | Updated: Nov 16 2005, 05:30am hrs
In what is sure to be music for detractors of former external affairs minister K Natwar Singh in the Congress, Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday emphatically dispelled impressions of any exclusive proximity with him, even as she asserted that action would be taken against anyone found guilty of receiving payoffs in the Iraqi oil scam mentioned in the Volcker report.

Refusing to oblige Mr Natwar Singh and extend him full backing, the Congress president sought to set the record straight by stating that she only had a working relationship with him. Breaking her silence on the Volcker controversy while participating in a question-answer session at the HT leadership summit, Ms Gandhi said the allegations had made her extremely angry and from the beginning, she was keen that an inquiry be launched.

In an indirect hint that she did not approve of Mr Natwar Singhs attempts to put the blame on some of his senior Cabinet colleagues, Ms Gandhi made it clear she was 100% with the government on its decision to hold the inquiry. In meetings with Left leaders, Mr Natwar Singh had told them that some senior party members as well as Cabinet colleagues were targeting him.

To the suggestions that there was an impression that she was protecting Mr Natwar Singh whereas the Prime Minister wanted to take action against him, she said, It is not accurate at all. Certainly Natwar Singh had a close working relationship with us. Certainly there was a feeling could it be so, could it be possible. From the very beginning, I kept repeating if what has come in the document are authentic and if any one individual has indulged in those activities, I was certainly not protecting them. Certainly I will not be on their side.

Asked whether Mr Natwar Singh was made a scapegoat when Congress was as culpable as him, Ms Gandhi said when the Volcker report was made public and his name as well as the partys name figured, she as the party president had the duty to clear the name of the organisation.

From the beginning, I was strongly of the view that the government should institute an inquiry to go to the bottom of the problem and find it out as soon as possible, she said, adding that Mr Natwar Singh resigned from his ministry on his own.