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|February 10, 1998|
'That Sharief is a bastard...'Savera R Someshwar in Bangalore
Congress workers all over the country are "enthused" with Sonia Gandhi's entry in the campaign fray. She has, they say, given "life" to a dying party. Even Bharatiya Janata Party leader L K Advani admits as much. Congress leaders are shouting themselves hoarse, claiming that her entry has united the party like nothing else and reduced infighting to zero.
Which is how it seems, on the surface at least. But scratch a little under the surface and the dirt begins to show.
And the filth began to show with Rahul and Sonia Gandhi's arrival in Bangalore on Monday evening. Congress organisational skills being what they were, no one really knew when she was arriving, as the leaders who were supposed to be "in the know" vaccilated between February 8 and 9.
C K Jaffer Sharief, the Congress candidate from Bangalore North, was not informed about her imminent arrival. At least, not until he was in the midst of hectic campaigning in rural Hoskote. He was informed only at 1600 hours, that Madam was expected to arrive an hour later and his presence was required at the airport. Surprising, considering that Sharief is considered close to 10, Janpath -- Sonia's home -- and is said to have Madam's ear.
Dusty and tired, Sharief was none too happy. "Look at my state. I don't even have a bouquet with which I can welcome her," he told Rediff On The NeT.
At Bangalore airport, the scene was one of peaceful chaos. Local Congress workers and leaders waited patiently behind barricades, surrounded by the police with the Special Protection Group keeping a firm eye on their every move.
In the VIP lounge, state Congress president Dharam Singh, Mallikarjun Kharge, leader of the Opposition, and D P Sharma, the Congress candidate from Bangalore South, waited in acrimonious silence, broken by desultory conversation about Congress chances in Karnakata and gentle chaffing of Sharma on his laidback attitude towards the campaign.
Sharief, after half-an-hour's impatient wait, left behind a bouquet to represent him and huffed away to complete the remainder of his campaign. "What is more important? It is the vote and the voters. Let us concentrate on winning the election first," he said before he left.
Sonia came -- three hours later, at 1910 hours -- was duly welcomed by the leaders, accepted flowers from the barricaded Congress workers, smiled at slogans of Sonia Gandhi ki Jai, Rahul Gandhi ki Jai, Priyanka Gandhi ki Jai and waved away as she was whisked away in a 8 cars-two police vans convoy.
"That Sharief is a bastard. He told Dharam Singh he was going away because I had not bothered to inform him properly about this evening's programme. He's acting like he was insulted," V Shankar, the party's press liaison man in Bangalore, fumed.
"You should have been more careful. After all, he is a winning candidate..."
"Just because he is a winning candidate, that does not mean he can behave as he wants to."
"Look, just calm down. If he wins, he may become a minister or something."
"Hah! I know exactly..."
So much for Congress unity. Long Live Soniaji.
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