Natwar Debunked

Once aptly named in the media as the Union Minister ‘Without Portfolio’, K. Natwar Singh seems to be turning into a political hot potato for the ruling Congress party. As a man now desperate to rebuild his sullied image, Mr Natwar Singh will go to any length to do just that. Indicted by the Justice R S Pathak for misusing his position to help people close to him get oil contracts from erstwhile Saddam Hussein regime in 2001, Mr Natwar Singh has now virtually challenged his own Congress party by giving notice of privilege motion against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a move seen by the party as an act of absolute indiscipline. This latest move is not the first time that the beleaguered politician has tried to take on his Prime Minister. 

It may be recalled that following the UN-sponsored independent Volcker committee report naming Natwar Singh as a “non-contractual beneficiary” of payoffs by the erstwhile Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, a sizable section of the party wanted him to quit in the larger interests of the organization. At that point of time his intransigence had dented the image of the Congress both within and outside Parliament. As such the latest discomforting position that Mr Natwar is putting his Prime Minister into is again highly despicable. If he feels that the party has not done justice to him, instead of crossing sword with the party leadership and the Prime Minister in particular, Mr Natwar should himself choose to resign from the party rather than face the ignominy of being expelled. Being a Congress Member of Parliament (MP) in the Rajya Sabha, the action of Mr Natwar Singh seeking a privilege notice accusing the government of leaking Justice Pathak’s report is a clear case of indiscipline.

What is now even more appalling is the manner in which the 75-year-old former minister has been hobnobbing in recent days with the likes of the Samajwadi Party, TDP and AIADMK. Natwar has even met Amar Singh, General Secretary of Samajwadi Party which has extended an open invitation to him to join it, and even BJP leaders in the last two days. It is not to say that these parties are political untouchables. In fact, as the basis of democracy and free expression, the freedom of choice is there for the taking and no one is denying this to Mr Natwar Singh. But as a senior politician, he should have the decency and show some respect to the party that has made him who he is today. Given that he has sullied the image of the party with his irresponsible conduct, it has become untenable for him to continue in the Congress. 

It would be better off if the Congress Party issues a show cause notice and let the former Minister explain his code of conduct. That should then set the stage for his eventual removal from the primary membership of the party. Better still, Mr Natwar Singh with whatever damage he has done to the party should himself do the right thing by voluntarily resigning rather than wait to be expelled. Also, being virtually friendless in the party with which he has been associated for long, it is obvious that even the Congress party crisis managers this time round can do little to bail Natwar out.