Embarrassed Congress tries to put up a brave face

May 23rd, 2008 - 1:24 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Shivraj Patil

New Delhi, May 22 (IANS) Red in the face over Home Minister Shivraj Patil’s remarks drawing a parallel between Sarabjit Singh and Afzal Guru, senior ministers Thursday tried to wash their hands of the controversy. “I don’t want to comment… If he has said so, ask him why he said it,” Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal told IANS.

Drawing a parallel between Sarabjit Singh, an Indian in a Pakistani jail awaiting death sentence on charges of carrying out bomb blasts there, and Guru, who was found guilty in the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament, Patil reportedly said that seeking the latter’s death did not go well with demanding clemency for the former.

“If you are asking for Afzal’s hanging then how can you ask pardon for Sarabjit? What are you doing?” Patil was quoted as saying in Marathi in Latur Wednesday.

Another of Patil’s cabinet colleagues, Information & Broadcasting minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, was softer.

“If anything has been stated by the honourable Home Minister, how can you expect that another Cabinet colleague will differ from him on the whole issue?” asked Dasmunsi.

“But certainly in the UPA government none of our ministers differ with one minister,” he added.

However, the discomfiture among the leaders over Patil’s remarks was obvious.

“Please keep me out of this. I do not know why he has said this. There is no similarity in the two cases. Afzal Guru is an Indian in a prison here,” said another minister, who did not want to be named.

None of the Congress spokespersons were available for comment despite repeated attempts.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has reacted sharply to the home minister’s comments.

While senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad termed it as “one of the most irresponsible comments by a minister”, party MP Prakash Javadekar said Patil had failed to remember the crucial differences between the two cases.

“The home minister must know that the Sarabjit case is one of mistaken identity and we are not defending the terrorist. Afzal Guru is a proven case of terrorism,” Javadekar told reporters here.

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