M A I N   N E W S

PM’s post: Sonia said to be reluctant

New Delhi, May 18
Sonia Gandhi is said to be reluctant to head the Congress-led coalition, informed sources said, adding that a meeting of the Congress Parliamentary Party is being convened later today.

Although Ms Sonia Gandhi met the President, Dr A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, this afternoon to discuss government formation, speculation mounted later when she called her senior party colleagues to a meeting at her residence. A senior member of one of the alliance partners said that the allies had been given indications that the Congress President was reluctant to head the government.

Unconfirmed reports said that the Parliamentary Party, which had elected Gandhi as its leader on Saturday, might be informed of her reluctance. It is likely that the parliamentarians insist that she does not not withdraw, but if she persisted, the party would have to elect a new leader. The name of Dr Manmohan Singh is being widely mentioned in this regard.

Ms Gandhi has called a meeting of the allies at 4 pm before the CPP meet. After her 20-minute meeting with the President, Ms Gandhi told reporters that she would meet him again tomorrow with letters of support from all coalition partners. "We are called for preliminary discussion on formation of government. The President was keen to know about the parties which are supporting us from outside and those who are supporting us from inside, which means pre-poll allies," she said.

Soon after reports about Gandhi's reluctance spread, a large number of Congress workers carrying party flags and banners gathered in front of her residence shouting slogans that she should be the Prime Minister. — PTIBack


Cong dismisses reports

New Delhi, May 18
As speculation mounted over Sonia Gandhi having a rethink over heading the new government, the Congress today dismissed these reports that she had declined to take over as Prime Minister.

The announcement came in the midst of mounting speculation that Sonia Gandhi, already elected leader of the CPP and the coalition, was reluctant to become the Prime Minister and that it was a toss up between senior leaders Manmohan Singh and Pranab Mukherjee.

There has been no official word from the Congress on these speculations, except a formal denial by General Secretary Oscar Fernandes.

"Yesterday, the issue was settled and there is no new development", AICC General Secretary Oscar Fernandes said, “Ms Gandhi has met the President and she has said she will be meeting him again tomorrow,” he told reporters.

When asked whether Ms Sonia Gandhi has had any second thoughts and was reluctant to head the coalition, he said "There is no such matter before us." He said "the issue was settled yesterday and how many times should it be relayed?" Mr Fernandes said he had spoken to Mr Ahmed Patel, political secretary to the Congress President, and quoted Mr Patel as saying that "there is no such thing."

Ms Sonia Gandhi is expected to address the CPP where she may tell the MPs of her reluctance and ask them to choose a new leader. The announcement about the CPP meeting was made by Tom Vadakkan of the AICC media department without giving any details about the purpose of the meeting. The Congress Parliamentary Party is meeting in Central Hall of Parliament at 6.30 pm amidst all speculations.

As Congress workers in hundreds gathered around Ms Gandhi's house demanding that she should be the Prime Minister and that there was no question of anyone else getting to the top post, some allied leaders spoke of the possibility of accepting alternative Prime Ministerial candidate if the Congress so decided. — PTIBack


Congress "happy" over today's
market recovery

New Delhi, May 18
Congress, which would soon form a coalition government at the Centre, said it was "happy" that the Capital Markets had settled down today after a bloodbath on Monday.

"I am happy the markets are finally showing signs of recovery and settling down," senior Congress leader Manmohan Singh, perceived to be the next Finance Minister, told reporters.

After an unprecedented fall of over 500 points yesterday, the stock markets today recovered significantly with heavy trading as the benchmark BSE index hovered over 200 points during the first 20 minutes of trading.

Aided by intervention of SEBI and assurance from Manmohan Singh of 'pro-growth and pro-investors' policies, the Mumbai stock market opened strong and share prices of major scrips showed a remarkable recovery.

Mr Manmohan Singh had also asked Congress allies to exercise restraint while making statements on economic issues and warned of stern action against those found responsible for manipulating the markets. — PTIBack


NDA trying to stall Soina's
appointment: CPM
'Even Rahul and Priyanka against the idea'

New Delhi, May 18
Amid speculation that Congress President Sonia Gandhi was "reluctant" to head the new government, CPI (M) today alleged "sinister attempts" were being made to stall appointment of the Prime Minister by NDA and attacked BJP leaders Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L. K. Advani for their "silence".

“There is a campaign of vilification" and "despicable" attempts were being made to "overrule the verdict of the people," veteran CPI (M) leader Somnath Chatterjee told reporters here.

Chatterjee said apparently Gandhi's children, Rahul and Priyanka, were against their mother taking up Prime Ministership as they fear about her safety. He said it was an internal matter of the Congress to decide who should be the Prime Ministerial candidate.

The CPI(M) leader said the present campaign being launched by the Sangh Parivar against Ms Sonia Gandhi was aimed at nullifying the popular verdict. — PTIBack


Swaraj meets President to protest
Gandhi becoming PM

New Delhi, May 18
Senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, who has strongly opposed Congress President Sonia Gandhi becoming the Prime Minister, today met the President, Dr A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, and expressed her "pain and anguish" over the issue.

 Emerging from a 30-minute meeting, Swaraj declined to share with reporters her discussion with the President, but said he "heard me as I narrated my inner feelings to him."

"The President is occupying a constitutional position and he will decide", she said. Swaraj said she was determined to carry out her resolve to tonsure her head, wear white clothes, sleep on the floor and eat only roasted grams if Ms Sonia Gandhi takes over as Prime Minister.

 "I cannot withstand crowning a foreigner as the Prime Minister of my country," she said, dismissing suggestions that her party was not with her. Swaraj said several individuals and organisations that were opposed to Ms Gandhi's candidature for Prime Ministership, would coordinate their efforts and if need arises "we can launch a countrywide protest."

Asked why she was opposed to Ms Gandhi as a Prime Minister when she had been accepted as the Leader of Opposition, Swaraj said, "while the job of the Leader of Opposition is only to corner the government, the Prime Minister runs the country and is privy to all the defence secrets."

Criticising the Left parties, she said they were not joining the Congress-led coalition as they wanted to enjoy "power without accountability." — PTIBack


Uma Bharti quits

New Delhi, May 18
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Uma Bharti today said she had submitted her resignation from the post to BJP president Venkaiah Naidu. Ms Bharti told reporters here she had resigned to launch a nationwide agitation against Congress President Sonia Gandhi becoming the Prime Minister of the country. — PTI

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