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PC offers to quit, Owns moral responsibility for Dantewada massacre; PM rejects offer; BJP, CPM wants him to remain
Published on 10 Apr. 2010 12:06 AM IST
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Accepting “full responsibility” for the Chhattisgarh massacre, Home Minister P. Chidambaram offered his resignation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who rejected it outright as the opposition backed his decision.
And, in rare solidarity signalling the gravity with which the Maoist insurgency is viewed in the country, the opposition BJP and CPI-M also rallied around to back the minister.
Chidambaram set the ball rolling Friday morning at a function of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), which lost 75 of its men in the forests of Dantewada Tuesday in the worst Maoist attack since the insurgency began more than four decades ago.
“I have been asked directly or indirectly where the buck stops after the attack. The buck stops at my desk,” Chidambaram said at the CRPF’s Valour Day event. “I accept full responsibility for what happened in Dantewada. I called the prime minister and gave in writing that I accept full responsibility for what happened,” he said, adding: “Let me not elaborate.”
The home minister refused to elaborate on the letter, but government sources later told IANS that Chidambaram had offered to step down. The prime minister refused to accept his resignation.
“The PM has declined to accept the home minister’s offer for resignation. The PM fully backs his senior cabinet colleague,” a top official told IANS. The home minister had also written to Congress president Sonia Gandhi accepting the blame for the deaths of 75 CRPF men and one Chhattisgarh policeman. According to sources, Chidambaram wrote the letters Wednesday soon after returning from Chhattisgarh.
An official said there was “no question” of Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi accepting the resignation offer as Chidambaram, who took over as home minister after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, has largely been hailed for his role in handling internal security management.
As speculation swirled, Chidambaram’s offer to step down was received with alarm even from the government’s most trenchant critics, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Communist Party of India-Marxist.
The BJP, which had earlier appreciated Chidambaram for his handling of security issues, said it supported him and asked him not to be seen to be retreating as any such move would mean that the Maoist guerrillas would “hail it as their victory”.
“Chidambaram deserves the support of the government, the support of all political parties,” BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy told reporters.
“We are not agreeable that Chidambaram should quit. We expect him to face the situation boldly. We cannot see the country standing defeated by Maoists,” he said. CPI-M leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who was sharply criticised by Chidambaram for his handling of the law and order situation in West Bengal, unexpectedly batted for him too.
“This is not a time to blame any one. It is the time to work together. We must work collectively,” said a mollified West Bengal chief minister. Only four days ago on Monday, Bhattacharjee had slammed Chidambaram for saying that the “buck should stop at the chief minister’s table” on checking inter-party clashes in West Bengal.
An angry Bhattacharjee had said Chidambaram’s remark was not the “language of politicians”. That Chidambaram used the exact same phrase for himself Friday was an irony not lost on observers, but few thought it fit to comment. Chidambaram’s own party, Congress, expectedly supported his “brave” decision.
“If the home minister offered to resign on moral responsibilities, it is brave, it is appreciable,” Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi. “His resignation offer has not been accepted. There is no need to comment more on it.”
It was not the first time that Chidambaram and his ministry had come in for praise from opposition parties. BJP chief ministers, including Narendra Modi, a bitter critic of the government, at a conference on internal security in February lauded his “swift and positive” response to requests from states on tackling law and order situation.

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