Congress on Thursday found itself hemmed in by attacks from within and outside with its leaders blaming the then party governments at the Centre and Madhya Pradesh over the escape of former Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson after the gas tragedy in December 1984.
The Centre sought to play down the controversy, saying all such issues would be looked into by the Group of Ministers (GoM) set up yesterday to go into the range of issues related to the Bhopal gas disaster in which over 15,000 people were killed and lakhs others affected.
Questions were also raised over the role of Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi for taking up the case of Dow Chemicals, the successor of the Union Carbide which was involved in the gas leakage.
Internal politics appeared to have come to the fore in Congress with senior leader Digvijay Singh firing the salvo by reportedly saying that release of Anderson had come under "US pressure". Singh was then a minister in the Arjun Singh government of Madhya Pradesh.
Echoing his views, another party veteran Vasant Sathe said "collusion" between the Madhya Pradesh government and "some people" in the Centre had allowed Anderson to escape justice.
Already battling allegations that the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh had arranged a special state plane for Anderson to fly away from Bhopal, the party sought to put up a brave face, saying that "facts must come out" and "responsibility must be fixed".
AICC General Secretary and media cell incharge Janardhan Dwivedi said, "The party has always maintained that all questions that are raised in any such situation, specially when there is a human tragedy of such magnitude, must be answered properly and responsibility should be fixed. The same norm applies to this case."
Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni sought to play down Digvijay Singh's remarks, saying "nobody is being indicted by anybody".
"The GoM will examine whatever happened," Soni said when mediapersons repeatedly referred to allegations that Anderson had been deliberately allowed to escape from the country.
"No fact will be hidden," she insisted.
The minister said, "Whatever communication conclusively proves any point or surmise will be taken up at the appropriate forum.... The government, on its part, has not failed to put in place a mechanism. Whatever facts will come to light will be considered, studied by the GoM." PTI