Newly appointed Punjab Congress affairs incharge Kamal Nath today defended himself in the ongoing row over his alleged involvement in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, saying that his name had been cleared by the Nanavati Commission probing the matter.On his first day in the new role, Nath said, “I was given the clean chit in this case. I appeared before the Commission, which did not find me guilty. Still I will be fine if the Congress leadership reverses its decision to have me as the party general secretary for Punjab. I had not asked for this role.”The statement came amid the Opposition outburst, with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the BJP accusing the Congress of “rubbing salt into the wounds of Sikh victims of the 1984 riots”.AAP leader HS Phoolka slammed the move as a “Congress’ gift to Punjab”, while the BJP’s Kailash Vijayvargiya said, “The Congress has added insult to injury by naming Kamal Nath as the party incharge for Punjab.”Nath, a Punjabi who earlier served as Congress general secretary from 2001 to 2004, had been exonerated by the Nanavati Commission probing the alleged involvement of party leaders in the riots. Still, the ghost of the carnage has followed the nine-time Lok Sabha MP from Chhindwara (Madhya Pradesh), who owed his entry into politics to Sanjay Gandhi. Nath was named an accused in the case about his presence at Gurdwara Rakabganj on November 1, 1984, the day miscreants torched the historical Sikh shrine and killed two Sikhs. Before the Commission, Nath acknowledged his presence at the gurdwara that day but denied the accusations of having led the crowds to kill or torch.His name had finally been cleared and no CBI probe was recommended.However, many Congress leaders from Punjab feel Nath’s appointment in the state would prove “”politically costly to the party”.“There’s no doubt that the party brought in Nath for his managerial skills and tremendous resourcefulness. Yet there will be more damage of this decision than benefit. The damage has already been done. The reversal of this decision won’t help,” said a senior party leader from the state.
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