M A I N   N E W S

Venod Sharma quits
Yoginder Gupta
Tribune News Service

Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has forwarded the resignation of Mr Venod Sharma to Governor A.R. Kidwai for acceptance after he received it from AICC President Sonia Gandhi. Mr Hooda said his resignation was not demanded by the party high command.

Chandigarh, October 6
After dithering for several days, Haryana Power Minister Venod Sharma today put in his papers. He submitted his resignation from the Cabinet to AICC president Sonia Gandhi in Delhi this morning.

According to sources close to him, Mr Sharma has written that he was quitting to keep the traditions and high values of the Congress.

The language of his resignation letter is believed to be identical to what he had written in his resignation from the post of president of the Chandigarh Territorial Congress in 1999, when Ms Jessica Lal, a Delhi-based model, was murdered allegedly by his son, Siddharth Vashisth, alias Manu.

The demand for his resignation had been gaining ground following a sting operation by a TV channel, alleging that he had influenced certain key witnesses in the Jessica Lal murder case to save Manu. The media expose had also accused him of paying Rs 25 lakh to an eyewitness, Mr Karan Rajput, to change his testimony. Mr Rajput is now dead.

Mr Sharma told the Tribune on the phone that certain political parties were unnecessarily dragging the Congress in the controversy though the allegations levelled by the TV channel were patently false and baseless. Since he did not want that the Congress should be harmed in any way, he decided to quit the Cabinet till the case against his son was decided.

The AICC general secretary, Mr Janardan Dwivedi, in charge of party affairs in Haryana, however, said in Delhi that no one had asked Mr Sharma to resign. He had resigned in view of the case against his son.

The Chief Minister, Mr Bhupinder Singh Hooda, said he was yet to receive Mr Sharma’s resignation from Mrs Gandhi. He said he would follow the directions of the party president on his resignation.

Meanwhile, supporters of Mr Sharma, particularly from Ambala city, from where he represents in the Assembly, have sent letters to Mrs Gandhi urging her not to accept his resignation. Municipal Councillors of Ambala city met under the chairmanship of Mr Harish Sasan, president of the Ambala Municipal Council, today and sent a joint letter to Mrs Gandhi to turn down Mr Sharma’s resignation in deference to the sentiments of Congress workers of the town.

They said Mr Sharma had done a lot for the development of Ambala city in a short period of 18 months. They also threatened to quit the civic body if his resignation was accepted.

Among those who have written to Mrs Gandhi on similar lines are Mr Arun Garg, president of the Ambala District Congress Committee, and Ms Amarjeet Kaur Sodhi, president of the Ambala District Mahila Congress.

There have been reports that some of his supporters burnt effigies of electronic media. Mr Sharma has urged his supporters to keep a restrain and not to indulge in any such activity.

Mr Sharma’s resignation is a personal loss to Mr Hooda because he is one of his most trusted men. With another vacancy in the Cabinet, Mr Hooda will be under pressure from the horde of aspirants for the Cabinet post.

Had Mr Sharma not been bogged down by the case against his son, he had the capability of emerging as an important leader of the non-Jats in Haryana. When the Congress was selecting its candidates for the Haryana Assembly elections, a senior party leader objected, referring to the Jessica Lal case. Mrs Gandhi is believed to have snubbed him saying that for how long Venod Sharma would suffer because of this case.

After that it was a smooth affair for Mr Sharma till a Delhi court acquitted Manu, leading to a huge public uproar.



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