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India's Home Minister Resigns Following Mumbai Attacks


The political fallout from the Mumbai terror attack is beginning to take its toll on the administration of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. As Mr. Singh convened an all-party meeting to discuss security, his home minister submitted his resignation. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from New Delhi.

India's home minister has resigned. The unpopular Shivraj Patil is the first political casualty in the wake of the unprecedented terror attack on the country's commercial capital.

Even before Mumbai was struck, Patil had been a target of opposition parties for his allegedly poor performance as the cabinet member tasked with domestic security. He is to be replaced by the respected finance minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was previously finance minister for five years, is taking over that portfolio.

The resignation of the home minister came as Prime Minister Singh convened an all-party meeting Sunday evening to obtain a consensus on comprehensive action against terrorism.

"In the face of this national threat and the aftermath of this national tragedy all of us from different political parties must rise above narrow political considerations and stand united," Mr. Singh said.

The prime minister has also announced the formation of a new federal investigative agency, stepped-up air and maritime security and is boosting the primary counter-terrorism unit, the National Security Guard.

A senior leader of the opposition BJP party, Arun Jaitley, says the resignation of the home minister does not adequately address the government's security failures.

"This government has no moral right to survive now," Jaitley said. "It is this weak policy of this government where the entire intelligence network had collapsed, the security responses were poor, the legal framework dealing with terrorism is non-existent. I think the prime minister must address the right questions, he'll find the right answers."

With a series of state elections concluding, both the government and the opposition now have their eye on parliamentary elections to be held in eight to 12 weeks.

Some of India's major media outlets are blasting the entire political establishment. The Times of India published a front page comment in its Sunday edition titled "Our politicians fiddle as innocents die." A Hindustan Times columnist blasted what he called incompetent politicians for using "terrorism as an excuse to win votes."

Television news channels criticized politicians for showing up at the scene of the terror attacks to make public comments while commandos were still battling the gunmen.

The terrorist siege of Mumbai left more than 170 people dead, including at least 18 foreigners, at ten locations. The well armed gunmen, estimated to number ten to 15, kept at bay one thousand commandos and elite combat troops for two and a half days. Mumbai police are pinning responsibility on Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based militant group.

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