UPA in a jam over tainted ministers

New Delhi, Nov 28 | Updated: Nov 29 2006, 05:30am hrs
The UPA leaderships never-ending woes over inclusion of tainted ministers in the Union Cabinet as a consequence of coalition compulsions, caught up once again on Tuesday with Union coal minister Shibu Soren being convicted in a murder case by a Delhi court. He has lost his job for the second time.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has laboured hard to retain his Mr Clean image, found himself deeply embarrassed once again but could do little except secure Sorens resignation.

The JMM chief, who was immediately sent to Tihar Jail after being convicted of conspiring to murder his former private secretary Shashi Nath Jha, stepped down from Cabinet ministership, sending his resignation to the Prime Minister.

Soren, 62, was present in court when the judge pronounced the verdict and was immediately taken into custody after a medical check-up at AIIMS. The quantum of the sentence will be announced next Thursday.

Four others have also been convicted in the case. Soren had earlier resigned from Manmohan Singh government in the wake of a a non-bailable warrant issued against him by a Jharkhand court in connection with a murder case during a protest agitation in the early 80s. He was re-inducted into the Cabinet two years ago.

With Parliament in session, the UPA leadership will certainly face flak in both houses on the issue. The NDA led by the BJP decided to put the UPA on the mat over the inclusion of tainted ministers in the Cabinet. Earlier it had questioned the morality quotient of the UPA when minister of state Jaiprakash Narain had resign after being arrested during Bihars assembly elections for securing the illegal rescue of his brother from police custody.

The response from government quarters was predictable with Union minister Ambika Soni refusing to say much except for law will take its own course. Sorens exit from the Union Cabinet is expected to put pressure on other tainted ministers like Jaiprakash Narain and Taslimuddin.

In its chargesheet against Soren and others, the CBI alleged that Jha was killed because he knew of a bribe between the Congress and the JMM to save the Narasimha Rao government in 1993.