Patil says no pressure to quit as demands for removal grow

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New Delhi, Sep 15 (UNI) As the chorus for his removal grew louder, Home Minister Shivraj Patil, who was conspicuous by his absence at a high-level emergency meeting convened by Congress president Sonia Gandhi today to discuss the security situation in the country, asserted that he enjoyed the party leadership's ''blessings''.

The meeting, which essentially discussed Saturday's serial blasts in Delhi, killing 21 people, was attended by senior leaders such as A K Antony, Pranab Mukherjee, Margaret Alva, Ahmed Patel, Janardhan Dwivedi, Veerappa Moily and Digvijay Singh.

None of the leaders who attended the meeting disclosed any details. Nor was there any official explanation as to why Mr Patil, whose ministry is directly in-charge of security of Delhi, was not present at the meeting.

The meeting at Ms Gandhi's official 10 Janpath residence came after RJD supremo and Railway Minister Lalu Prasad met her and blamed the intelligence apparatus for the string of bombing incidents in recent times in the country.

The RJD president urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the UPA Chairperson to immediately hold a meeting of the union cabinet and call a high-level all-party meeting to deliberate measures to check terrorism. He also criticised his cabinet colleague and the Home Minister who is already under attack for ''inept handling of terrorism''.

Besides the Opposition BJP which has demanded the resignation of Mr Patil, some senior Congress leaders were also said to be critical of the minister, whose certain utterances after the blasts were described by them as ''highly embarrassing'' for the party.

The Congress, however, officially rubbished the demand of the Opposition for the resignation of Mr Patil, and said that it was wrong to raise such demands in this hour of crisis.

To repeated questions on the possibility of Mr Patil's removal, AICC Spokesman Abishek Manu Singhvi said : ''It was a national tragedy. Please don't reduce it to the level of an individual.'' Asked if the meeting convened by Ms Gandhi sans Mr Patil was to discuss the ouster of Mr Patil, Dr Singhvi said, ''it is wrong to argue that the minister is on his way out just because he did not attend the meeting convened by Ms Gandhi.'' In an interview to a TV channel, Mr Patil, however, maintained that there was no pressure on his to resign and claimed that the government had prior information about a terror attack in Delhi but it was not ''actionable information''.

He said what was not available was time and the place and the method of keeping bombs in dustbins.

Mr Patil claimed that he enjoyed the ''blessings'' of the Party leadership.

Asked whether he felt pressurised by not being invited to a meeting convened by the Congress President, Mr Patil said, ''Don't put me in defensive. This is not the style of functioning of my leader neither it is the ethos of my party.'' Denying the charge that he was a weak home minister, Mr Patil said that people thought that he was weak as he did not shout.

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