Accessibility links

Political Fallout in Wake of Terror Attacks Taking Toll in Mumbai

Top officials in the Indian state, Maharashtra, are becoming political causalities of last week's terror attack. The 60-hour assault on Mumbai, blamed on Islamic militants, killed an estimated 175 people, including at least 18 foreigners. From New Delhi, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman has the latest.

The two top officials of the state in which Mumbai is located appear to be on their way out, in wake of last week's terror attack. Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilisrao Deshmukh says he is willing to quit to take responsibility for perceived security shortcomings. Media reports say the state had received intelligence warnings Mumbai would be attacked.

At a raucous news conference, where reporters demanded a clear statement, the chief minister would only acknowledge he is offering his resignation and leaving his fate in the hands of his Congress Party bosses.

"Whatever decision high command takes … I was telling you in very, very simple understandable words," said Deshmukh. "You don't need any more explanation."

Deshmukh also came under fire for having his movie star son, as well as a top Bollywood filmmaker, accompany him on a tour of the devastated Taj Mahal Hotel, while bodies were still being removed from the attack site.

Deshmukh's number-two is also quitting. Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil called the unprecedented siege of Mumbai "a small incident." That comment generated an uproar of criticism.

The first political casualty at the federal level was the unpopular home minister. He stepped down Sunday.

Calls for the ouster of Shivraj Patil had been heard even before last week's attack on Mumbai. Patil had faced criticism for the perceived poor government response to a continuing wave of bombings, this year, in various Indian cities.

Patil is being replaced by the respected finance minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, who tells reporters he is moving reluctantly to the home ministry, which oversees domestic security.

"I would be less than honest if I do not say I was disinclined," said Chidambaram. "But, in a situation like the one we find ourselves, the final call is taken by the party leader - in my case the Congress [Party] president and the prime minister.

The prime minister, Manmohan Singh, is taking the finance portfolio, a post he held previously.

The political turmoil is not unexpected.

Analysts say the governing coalition, led by the Congress Party, has to make changes, amid rising public anger about its perceived inability to halt terror attacks across India. The top opposition party, the BJP, is saying the government, led by Prime Minister Singh, is no longer fit to stay in power.