Sonia will ask Congress rebels to return
George Iype in New Delhi
In an effort to revive and unite the Congress under one banner, party president Sonia Gandhi will formally invite all former Congressmen to rejoin the parent party during the special session of the All India Congress
Committee on Monday, April 6.
The parties included in Sonia's party rejuvenation programme are the Tamil Maanila Congress, Mamata Bannerjee's Trinamul Congress, Sheeshram Ola's Congress (T) and S Bangarappa's Karnataka Vikas Congress. G K Moopanar quit as TMC chief yesterday, triggering speculation that he is rejoining the Congress.
Sources said Sonia met both Moopanar and Mamata last week.
She also sent her emissaries, general secretary Oscar Fernandes and Narain Dutt Tiwari to Bangarappa and
Ola respectively, asking them to merge their splinter groups with the Congress.
"Sonia would very much want all the former Congressmen to be back in the party. She feels that the party can be strengthened by their return," Fernandes told Rediff On The NeT.
He said Sonia has taken positively to the TMC's offer to return to the party fold. "It is gladdening that the TMC leaders are convinced of Sonia's stewardship," Fernandes added.
Sources said Moopanar met Sonia last week apparently to congratulate her on being elected Congress president. "But Moopanar has definitely discussed with Sonia his plans to merge the TMC with the Congress," a Congress leader disclosed.
On Monday, Sonia also invited Mamata for tea at 10, Janpath.
Mamata's Trinamul Congress, with seven MPs, is now part of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government at the Centre. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is already understood to have urged her to join his government.
Mamata is said to have assured Sonia that the Trinamul Congress will not join the Vajpayee government. But she told the Congress chief that the Trinamul Congress is not in a position to rejoin the parent party as many in the splinter group want to retain the Bengali identity of her party.
But Congress leaders believe that sooner than later Mamata will abandon her support to the Vajpayee government and join hands with the Congress.
However, they expect Bangarappa's Karnataka Vikas
Congress and Sheeshram Ola's Congress (T) to merge with the Congress soon after the special AICC session.
After the 1996 general election, then Congress president P V Narasimha Rao had given a call to all former Congressmen to return to its fold. But rebel Congress heavyweights like Arjun Singh and N D Tiwari rejoined the party only after Sitaram Kesri succeeded Rao at the end of 1996.
Now that Sonia is the unquestioned leader of the Congress, many believe all the ex-Congressmen, who were once close to her late husband Rajiv Gandhi, would return to the party after the AICC session.
Apart from Sonia's unity call to all Congressmen, the AICC session will also issue a political resolution outlining the path the party should take to lead all secular forces against the BJP government.
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