PM, Sonia Gandhi one on sacking of ministers: Congress

FPMotilal Vora, Ahmed Patel at Sonia’s residence in New Delhi Sunday

Betraying frayed nerves in the ruling camp about public debate over whether Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was forced by Congress president Sonia Gandhi to sack ministers Pawan Bansal and Ashwani Kumar, the Congress Sunday chose to correct the perception, stating that it was a "joint decision".

"It has appeared in a section of the media that it was at the insistence of the Congress president that the two ministers were dropped. This perception is not correct. The correct position is that it was the joint decision of the Congress president and Prime Minister," AICC general secretary and media department chairman Janardan Dwivedi said.

This clarification came as senior BJP leader L K Advani took a dig at the PM in his blogpost. "Has the Prime Minister abdicated his right even to decide about his own Cabinet? Today's news reports... emphasise that it is Soniaji who has sacked the 'two PM's men'. Sheer self-respect demands that the PM call it a day," Advani wrote.

Party sources, however, emphasised Sunday that the party and PM were on the same page and both were together in acknowledging the need to act against Bansal and Kumar.

The Congress's clarification came in the backdrop of growing public perception that in her meeting with the PM on Friday, Sonia had prevailed on him to drop the two ministers from Punjab, who were perceived to be close to him. Barely a couple of hours after their meeting, the two were called to Singh's residence to put in their papers.

After the CBI submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court confirming that Ashwani Kumar had been given access to the draft report on coal allocations, Singh had come out in his defence, saying "there is no question of the Law Minister resigning". The Congress Core Group was said to have favoured a step-by-step approach, keeping an eye on the court proceedings, and the PM's categorical stand on Kumar's resignation had caught many party leaders by surprise.

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