M A I N   N E W S

Sonia Gandhi quits Lok Sabha
* Also resigns as NAC chief * To contest again from Rae Bareli
T R Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 23
Stung by the Election Commission report on the Jaya Bachchan disqualification issue and reminiscent of the time when she steered clear of the office of the Prime Minister, Congress President Sonia Gandhi sought to push an aggressive Opposition on the backfoot by resigning as Chairperson of the UPA's overarching National Advisory Council as well her seat in the Lok Sabha representing the Rae Bareli constituency in Uttar Pradesh.

Preferring the high moral ground that she was not in politics for personal gains but to better the lot of the people at large, Mrs Gandhi has managed to save herself from a potentially embarrassing situation even as Congressmen of all hues and shades were eulogising her sacrifice once again.

The Congress-led UPA had pushed itself to the wall over the last 48 hours following the retrospective disqualification of actor Jaya Bachchan as a member of the Rajya Sabha with the BJP in the vanguard of the NDA stepping up the ante that President A P J Abdul Kalam cannot adopt a different yardstick in referring their petition against Mrs Gandhi to the Election Commission.

What made matters worse for the Manmohan Singh government was the unprecedented adjournment of both Houses of Parliament Sine Die yesterday on the ground that there was no pending government business which fuelled speculation that an Ordinance was round the corner.

In a brief statement to mediapersons this afternoon after sending her resignation as UPA Chairperson to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and as a member of the Lok Sabha to Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, Mrs Gandhi regretted that an atmosphere had been created over the past 48 hours to give an impression that the government and Parliament were “being misused for my cause only.”

The Speaker has accepted Mrs Gandhi's resignation.

Speaking in Hindi, she said these accusations have caused her great hurt as "she was in public life not for any personal gains but for serving the people of this country and protect its secular character. In keeping with my public life and principles and according to my own belief, I have resigned as a member of the Lok Sabha and Chairperson of the NAC.”

While expressing confidence in the people of Rae Bareli who had reposed faith in her, Mrs Gandhi had no doubt that the people of the country would understand her feelings. Mrs Gandhi said she would contest from Rae Bareli again.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh explained that all options were open on the issue of promulgating an Ordinance on redefining the office of profit.

BJP spokespersons Arun Jaitley and Ravi Shankar Prasad stressed that the super Prime Minister of the UPA government had caved in to intense Opposition pressure. The government is solely to blame for mishandling the situation compelling Mrs Gandhi to made an ignominious exit.

Senior ministers said Mrs Gandhi after intense consultations and having given the matter great thought with the immediate family felt that a proposed Ordinance or any other measure should not be viewed as benefiting her individually though there were several instances of Members of Parliament across the political spectrum seemingly falling within the ambit of holding an office of profit.

It is evident that the talk of an Ordinance on which the opinion in the Congress was divided will have to take a back seat now. The Left parties had also expressed their strong reservation in taking the Ordinance route and suggested that the issue be discussed on floor of Parliament for which the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha will have to be specially convened.

Simultaneously, there is talk of the government convening an all-party meeting to discuss the issue of which offices should be taken out of the ambit of office of profit. The Opposition is lukewarm to such a move at this juncture but most believe that such a course would have been a better option for the Manmohan Singh government to have considered in the first instance rather than promulgating an Ordinance to save a high profile member of the Nehru-Gandhi family.

Union Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal, who is believed to have advised Mrs Gandhi to resign and contest elections from Rae Bareli again, stressed "she has again demonstrated her highest respect to the principles of democracy."



Karan Singh resigns from RS

New Delhi, March 23
The controversy over office of profit tonight claimed the parliamentary seat of a senior Congress leader Karan Singh who resigned from the Rajya Sabha, hours after his party chief Sonia Gandhi’s quitting from the Lok Sabha and as Chairperson of the National Advisory Council.

Mr Karan Singh, accused by the opposition for occupying an office of profit by being the chairman of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, has sent his resignation letter, addressed to the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Mr Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

Meanwhile, Mumbai Regional Congress Committee President Gurudas Kamat today also submitted his resignation from the post and as an MP to express his solidarity with the Congress President and asked other party MPs to follow suit. — PTI


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