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Cong leaders want only Sonia as PM
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 18
Congress President Sonia Gandhi today declined to accept the Prime Minister’s post. She announced her decision at a hurriedly-convened party meeting this evening and though members repeatedly pleaded, cajoled and appealed to her to reconsider her decision, a rethink on the issue appeared highly unlikely.

No formal announcement was forthcoming about the party’s next prime ministerial candidate but, from all accounts, former Finance Minister Manmohan Singh was the front-runner for the post.

However, the issue was left open-ended. Responding to the outpourings of members at the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP), called by Mrs Gandhi for the specific purpose of conveying her decision, the Congress President only said, “If you respect me, please allow me to take my decision.”

She was responding to the party’s resolution urging her to reconsider her decision given the members’ unanimous views. Although the original resolution, read out by senior leader Pranab Mukherjee, had merely authorised Mrs Gandhi to take appropriate steps in the interests of the nation and the Congress party”, it was was not agreeable to the angry members. It was subsequently amended to include their strong sentiment that she reconsider her decision.

Mrs Gandhi told the members that she had never lusted for power or any post. “I was always clear, my objective was not to become Prime Minister,” she said, adding that it was always her view that she would listen to her inner voice. “In this case, my inner voice tells me that I must decline this post.”

Predictably, angry members were immediately on their feet, as they shouted slogans, rushed to the podium and virtually gheraoed the Congress President. “We will not allow you to resign,” was the common refrain while several others surrounded her children- Rahul and Priyanka.

This sentiment was subsequently expressed in the speeches as speaker after speaker urged Mrs Gandhi to accept the Prime Minister’s post which, according to them was rightfully hers.

“We will not accept anybody as a leader,” declared an emotional Mani Shankar Aiyer, who began by addressing her Madam Prime Minister. Others maintained that they would not be able to go back their constituencies as people had voted for a Congress led by her.

Senior leaders like Arjun Singh, Pranab Mukherjee and Priyaranjan Dasmunshi said she should not back off as it would amount to giving in to the RSS and BJP pressure tactics. “We should not surrender to such pressures and machinations of fascist forces,” they all maintained.

In fact, party sources said that Mrs Gandhi’s rethink accepting the Prime Minister’s post was prompted by the RSS threat to create civil strife in the country on the issue of her foreign origin. It was stated that Mrs Gandhi was worried that she would be held responsible in case this issue snowballed into a serious agitation, “She does not want to have blood on her hands...she does not want to be seen as a woman lusting for power at any cost,” explained a senior Congress leader.

The evening CPP meeting topped a day of high drama and suspense. Emerging from her meeting with President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, a relaxed Congress President told presspersons that after preliminary discussions on government formation, they would be submitting their letters of support tomorrow. Dr Manmohan Singh accompanied her for this meeting.

However, by the afternoon, the mood had changed. Mrs Gandhi called up her close party colleagues and told them about her decision to decline the post and asked them to convey her decision to the allies. The allies, who had unanimously endorsed her candidature, were shell-shocked. Mr Paswan, Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav and several others, however, told the Congress leaders that Mrs Gandhi was not just her party leader but also the leader of the new alliance. They would first like to know the reasons for Mrs Gandhi’s decision and only then decide on their next step.

Rahul says his mother will not change decision

New Delhi, May 18
Rahul Gandhi today said he would be very surprised if his mother and Congress President Sonia Gandhi reverses her decision of declining the Prime Minister’s slot.

“She is a person who speaks from her heart...and acts accordingly,” Mr Rahul Gandhi, the newly-elected MP from Amethi, told a private news channel.

Mr Rahul Gandhi said the Congress President had expressed her feelings of not taking up the Prime Minsitership throughout the elections and even after the results were declared. — UNIBack

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