Tuesday, March 4, 2003, Chandigarh, India





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PM rules out exit of Shanta Kumar
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 3
The Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, today dismissed reports about a possible exit of the Union Rural Development Minister, Mr Shanta Kumar, from the Council of Ministers.

To a question ďIf he was going to drop Mr Shanta Kumar from the CabinetĒ, Mr Vajpayee said such big issues were not decided like this and pointed his hand downwards.

The Prime Minister was confronted with the question as he was about to proceed to the Lok Sabha for giving a reply to the motion of thanks on the Presidentís address to the joint session of Parliament.

Political circles were agog today with rumours that Mr Shanta Kumar may be dropped from the Union Cabinet in the backdrop of the Prime Ministerís yesterday observations that factionalism in the party was responsible for the defeat of the BJP in Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections.

While Mr Shanta Kumarís plain speaking on the partyís performance is being criticised by a certain section of the party, the Prime Minister is not going to take any action now as it will send wrong signals to the electorate of the hilly state, sources said.

It is true that a section within the BJP has been opposed to Mr Shanta Kumar for a pretty long time and he has also been humiliated for his apology letter on his remarks on Gujarat situation to the former party President K.Jana Krishnamurthi but the Prime Ministerís observation at the party meeting yesterday has already given vent to the assessment and no further move was on cards, a leader said.

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