Sonia may take over as Kesri quits
Rajesh Ramachandran in New Delhi and Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Bombay
Congress president Sitaram Kesri's endgame has taken his partymen by surprise. The immediate reaction to Kesri's resignation is that it will lead to Sonia Gandhi's elevation to the highest party post.
Kesri, who announced his decision to quit at a media conference on Monday evening, said he would explain his decision to the All India Congress Committee. He said his decision to quit was 'irreversible'.
Stating that he had always been advocating that Sonia should take over as party chief, Kesri said the decision was taken on his own and not under pressure from any quarters.
Kesri communicated his decision to the Congress Working Committee only after
his announcement to the media.
Senior CWC member Sharad Pawar said Kesri had taken the
decision in the best interests of the party and his action was in
compliance with the wishes of the party rank and file.
He said the CWC will meet tomorrow and would take a decision on the new president. The party constitution provides that the CWC can elect a new president and it should be ratified by the AICC within six months.
Asked whether Kesri's resignation would have any adverse
impact on the party and its relationship with the United Front, Pawar replied in the negative.
On Kesri's explantion that he arrived at the decision during his morning walk, Pawar quipped it 'must be a good morning for him'.
Reacting to the development, former Union minister Rajesh Pilot told Rediff On The NeT, "The way is being cleared for Sonia Gandhi to take over the party."
Pilot said that would be a welcome change. "Now everybody alleges that she has no right to interfere in party affairs,'' he said. ''But the moment she becomes president, nobody can stop her."
"There was a strong feeling in the party that Kesriji should step down in favour of Soniaji. So, I do not think there is any surprise," says Congress MP from Ramtek and Pawar associate Datta Meghe.
Agreeing with his viewpoint is CWC member Pranab Mukherjee. "We all wanted Soniajito lead the party. And, I guess, therefore, Kesriji has offered to quit."
However, Mukherjee expressed surprise that Kesri did not raise the issue at Sunday's CWC meeting and directly announced his decision to the media.
It is now almost certain that Kesri feared that he would lose the Congress Parliamentary Party leadership election. Even those close to Kesri like CWC member A K Antony told Rediff On The NeT that the party's highest decision-making body would nominate a leader tomorrow and the AICC could ratify it later.
It is also contended that Kesri wanted to stall Sharad Pawar's moves.
A Congress joint secretary told Rediff On The NeT, "I was at Kesri's house in the afternoon. It was just a
courtesy call. He was in a very good mood. I never thought that he was going to announce his resignation when he went to the AICC."
AICC sources said that, in any case, Congress MPs would have denied him the CPP leadership. In such a scenario, Pawar would have become very strong and it would have been difficult for Kesri to prevent the former from capturing the party post.
"If Sonia becomes party president, it does not matter who becomes the CPP leader. Remember how Kesri removed P V Narasimha Rao from the CPP post immediately after taking over as party president?" asks an AICC official.
But the Pawar camp claims otherwise. "Kesri would like to continue as CPP leader and that is his gameplan. But he is out of the picture now. Sonia has to decide and she will decide in Pawar's favour. She appreciates Pawar's work in Maharashtra. In fact, she feels that he is only leader who had worked hard for the party this time."
Additional reportage: UNI
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