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Natwar Singh resigns from Union Cabinet

By Onkar Singh in New Delhi
Last updated on: December 06, 2005 23:43 IST
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K Natwar Singh, minister without portfolio in the Manmohan Singh government, announced his resignation from the Union Cabinet on Tuesday night saying he did not want to be an excuse for Parliament proceedings being paralysed after the opposition stalled both the Houses insisting on his immediate exit.

Hours after meeting Congress President Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi, for the second time in less than 24 hours, Singh announced his resignation in a brief statement to reporters outside his residence amidst indications from the Bharatiya Janata Party that Parliament can resume normal business if he resigns by Wednesday morning.

Maintaining that he was completely innocent, he said Parliament and his party Congress were above individuals.

"I do not wish to be the excuse for the opposition to stall the functioning of Parliament. Hence, I have decided to resign from the Union cabinet despite the fact that I have not violated any law in letter or spirit," Singh said, declining to divulge whether he had already sent his resignation.

He described as "most unfortunate" the continued stalling of Parliament proceedings and legislative business that had a significant bearing on India's future and welfare of the people.

BJP vice president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, in his reaction to Natwar's resignation, said Natwar was only a shield and that he was trying to protect the Congress party and its leader by resigning.

"This is a hog wash. If he had resigned on the first day, we would have felt that the Congress party and its leadership was honest in its approach and wanted to investigate the Oil-for-Food scam. But now he has resigned under pressure. The real culprit is someone else," he alleged.

Not impressed by the Congress statement on Monday night that Natwar would resign after the return of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from Moscow on Wednesday, the BJP-led opposition paralysed Parliament on Tuesday demanding his immediate resignation.

As pressure mounted further on him, Natwar called on Sonia for a brief meeting and is understood to have reiterated his decision.

Later in the day, BJP's Deputy Leader in Lok Sabha conveyed to the government that the Opposition would cooperate in the functioning of the Parliament provided the minister resigned on Wednesday.

The Prime Minister, who is returning on Wednesday evening, is likely to meet leaders of all parties to break the parliamentary deadlock after he secures Natwar's resignation.

The government and Congress, however, rejected the Opposition's demand for resignation of Sonia as the National Advisory Committee chairperson in the wake of the Volcker report terming it as mischievous and motivated.

Meanwhile, D Raja of Communist party of India said Natwar's resignation had cleared the way for smooth functioning of Parliament.

"He can always fight back. BJP was taking advantage of the situation and stalling the proceedings of both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. We want to debate on important issues like Independent foreign policy, World Trade Organization and Floods in Tamil Nadu. I hope it would be possible now," he said.

Complete Coverage: The Volcker Report

With Agency inputs

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Onkar Singh in New Delhi