Mumbai attacks: Bihar allies urge PM for action, he says options few

Forced on the backfoot by the rival JD(U) which announced that its MPs would quit if MNS leader Raj Thackeray isn't arrested by November 7, the UPA's Bihar constituents urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at a Cabinet meeting today to strongly intervene in Maharashtra otherwise their position was becoming untenable.

The Prime Minister, however, indicated that his options were limited. "What can I do?," he reportedly said at the meeting. "I wrote a most strongly worded letter after the all-party delegation from Bihar met me. I also spoke to the Maharashtra Chief Minister."

Singh's response came when Steel, Chemical and Fertiliser Minister Ramvilas Paswan raised the issue and demanded concrete measures while stressing that he and other Union Ministers from Bihar were under pressure to quit. Paswan pointed out that the UPA's political rivals in Bihar and UP had demanded that the Bihar Ministers resign.

None of the ministers from Maharashtra except Home Minister Shivraj Patil was present at the meeting today. Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav was also absent.

Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal is said to have floated the idea of arresting Thackeray under the National Security Act. This was immediately endorsed by Paswan who also called for a judicial probe into the killing of Rahul Raj. The Patna youth was shot dead by Mumbai police after he took over a bus at gunpoint.

In this, he was supported by Law Minister H R Bhardwaj who said: "An enquiry by the Chief Secretary is an administrative enquiry. Normally, in such incidents a magisterial inquest is much more appropriate." Those who supported Paswan include Jaipal Reddy and Sisram Ola.

"What are we doing?" Paswan is said to have asked. "We are looking helpless against a petty politician like Raj Thackeray. Apart from the state, it is also the Centre's responsibility to ensure safety and security of citizens." He even cited the case of how MDMK chief Vaiko was arrested without any delay for supporting the LTTE. "Why can't the Maharashtra government act similarly?" Paswan reportedly asked.

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