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September 11, 2000
MP Cong divided on chief ministerial candidate
Our correspondent in Bhopal
Madhya Pradesh Congress leaders are divided over the selection of a chief minister for the new Chhattisgarh state.
The party's two dozen tribal legislators, including five ministers from Chhattisgarh, met All India Congress Committee president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi, demanding a tribal as chief minister. They submitted a one-line memorandum to Sonia, stressing that a person from their community be allowed to govern the tribal-dominated state.
Animal husbandary minister Chanesh Ram Rathia said he and the legislators had conveyed to Sonia that considering the tribal-dominated population in the state, it would be 'politically correct' to have a tribal chief minister.
Rathia, on his return from Delhi, said that he was hopeful that Sonia would respect the sentiments of tribal leaders.
He said that he and other leaders would not allow anyone but a tribal as chief minister. Rathia's stand rules out prime chief ministerial candidate, veteran Congress leader Vidya Charan Shukla's chances.
Rathia said that he would not allow any leader who shifted loyalty from the Congress. Shukla had switched over to the Janata Party in 1989.
Rathia said the chief minister should be a tribal as 65 per cent of the population of Chhattisgarh was tribal. He said that half of 48 Congress legislators were tribals. Rathia claimed the support of all the 24 legislators.
The decision to seek Sonia's intervention was taken at a meeting on September 8, which was attended by 21 tribal legislators from Chhattisgarh.
Hectic lobbying for the top slot is on. The main contender, V C Shukla, stated at a press conference that per se he did not object to a tribal chief minister, but a final decision would be taken by the legislators.
On why he wanted to become chief minister, Shukla said that it was not a question of will but of duty to the new state. He insisted that no one felt that only a tribal chief minister could bring development to Chhattisgarh.
Besides V C Shukla, other contenders for the top post are his elder brother, former chief minister Shyama Charan Shukla, All India Congress Committee general secretary Ajit Jogi, All India Congress Committee acting treasurer Motilal Vora, party parliamentarian Charan Das Mahant and Madhya Pradesh ministers Ravindra Choube and Satya Narayan Sharma.
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