While the Congress is yet to take a decision on Law Minister Ashwani Kumar,under fire for vetting the CBIs status report on the coal block allocations row,the partys strategists are interpreting Wednesdays Supreme Court order as a signal to the government to consider executive action before the next hearing on July 10.
Legal eagles in the ruling dispensation were of the view that although the apex court did not directly indict the minister in its order,there were clear suggestions that the government needed to act. These views are likely to be deliberated upon by the Congress core group when it meets on Friday to take a call on the law ministers future. Sources said PM Manmohan Singhs views would be crucial in deciding the ministers fate.
While the Supreme Court deferred its decision on constitution of a special investigating team for the next hearing,sources said the fact that it took note of senior counsel Prashant Bhushans specific questions on the Law Ministers remit in the CBI investigation and whether his action went on to subvert the integrity of the investigation,is being seen as serious enough in government and party circles.
We leave the above questions and the prayer for constitution of SIT for consideration,if necessary,at a later point of time, stated the order.
Meanwhile,Ashwani Kumar has been making the rounds of the Prime Ministers Office. He has been seen making unscheduled visits to PMO officials over the past two days. He spent a few hours in the PMO today,reaching out to officials personally even though the PM was not in his office.
The minister has been losing his friends,with senior leaders feeling increasingly uneasy about the fact that even an election victory in Karnataka,which should set the momentum for the general elections,was being over-shadowed by the controversy surrounding him.
Given the perception in the Congress that its hasty action against then Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan following the Adarsh scam had proved to be politically detrimental,the party leadership was initially in favour of a step-by-step approach in Kumars case,depending on legal proceedings. Senior party leaders,however,are now of the view that the Law Ministers action may not stand judicial scrutiny and the sooner a decision is taken,the better.
Pending a decision though,the party has been defending the minister,albeit grudgingly. While briefing mediapersons on the Cabinet decisions today,Information & Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari avoided a direct reply about the Law Ministers fate,saying the matter was sub-judice. While this has been the constant refrain of Congress leaders since the controversy broke out,there is increasing discomfiture in the party on the issue.