M A I N   N E W S

Sonia declines post of PM
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 18
A determined Congress President Sonia Gandhi categorically told her shocked and hysterical party MPs that they should “trust and allow” her to take the decision of “humbly declining” the office of Prime Minister.

The amended resolution adopted by the CPP in the Central Hall of Parliament late tonight pleaded with Mrs Gandhi to “reconsider her decision in the best interest of the country and the party.”

The curtain was rung down on the CPP without taking up the issue of who would be its leader in place of Mrs Gandhi. This has provided the MPs the necessary space to take in the decision of Mrs Gandhi before a new leader emerges on the firmament.

Indications are that Mrs Gandhi is unlikely to reverse her decision in keeping with her conscience and providing a strong, stable and secular government at the Centre. The architect of the economic reforms process and former Finance Minister Manmohan Singh is believed to have the backing of Mrs Gandhi to succeed her as the CPP leader.

At the very outset she told the CPP that her decision was irreversible amid shouts of no, no. “One thing is clear in my mind that I have never hankered for any office or position or that the decision to step down as the CPP leader is under pressure,” she observed.

Clearly, there has been pressure on her especially from her two children and others who feared a threat to her life. Another aspect was her foreign origin issue snowballing into a bitter fight with the BJP-led NDA within Parliament and outside which might deflect her from the affairs of the state.

Thirdly, the suggestion tendered to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam by Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy and certain constitutional experts that there is a flaw in Mrs Gandhi’s citizenship of the country also appeared to have convinced her to steer clear of the office of Prime Minister.

Since last evening even before Mr Kalam’s communication reached Mrs Gandhi in her capacity as Congress president and leader of the CPP, there has been uncertainty and vacciliation whether she should bash on regardless on being the Prime Minister.

Mr Swamy sent details to the President about the reciprocity clause in the country’s Citizenship Act which led to speculation that Mr Kalam may have sought a clarification about this matter. And that, indeed, might have clinched the matter for Mrs Gandhi though she was also actively considering not to become Prime Minister.

Simultaneously, the Rashtriya Swabhiman Andolan opposing Mrs Gandhi’s candidature as Prime Minister, also called on Mr Kalam today and drew his attention to the purported “legal infirmity” in the Congress President’s citizenship.

However, within hours of her meeting with Mr Kalam in Rashtrapati Bhawan this afternoon for preliminary discussions on government formation, Mrs Gandhi sent senior Congress leaders to the Left parties and the leaders of the pre-poll allies to apprise them that she had decided against becoming the Prime Minister.

After initial trepidation, the Left and the pre-poll allies of the Congress realised that if that was her wish, so be it. The Left acknowledged that the CPP was going to have a new leader which it felt was for the Congress to choose. The others also said they would back any leader chosen by the Congress, which had emerged as the single largest entity in the National Progressive Alliance with 145 seats. In another development which has swelled the numerical strength of the NPA, the Bahujan Samaj Party conveyed its decision to the President of providing “issue based” outside support to the Congress-led secular forces.

Mrs Gandhi also appears to have been taken aback by the Left’s decision to extend support to the Congress-led government from outside. The DMK reiterated that there was no change in its stand of supporting the Congress-led arrangement at the Centre from outside. DMK chief M Karunanidhi affirmed this afternoon “We will observe how the new government shapes up before taking a decision on being part of it.”

Simultaneously, SP’s Amar Singh said if the Congress wanted his party to join the government, then they would consult CPM veteran Harkishen Singh Surjeet. Mr Surjeet, who also had a one-to-one meeting with Mr Karunanidhi, told reporters: “You will be happy with a decision soon.”

Mrs Gandhi’s 10 Janpath Road residence was swamped by supporters and Congress activists chanting the Congress President’s slogans. While one of them tried to commit suicide by brandishing a gun and a sword, some others sought to slash their hands if Mrs Gandhi did not become the Prime Minister.

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