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Congress keen to end row with NCP on Sonia remarks

October 13, 2003 19:11 IST

Indicating that it wants to end the row with the Nationalist Congress Party over its chief Sharad Pawar's statement on Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin, the Congress on Monday chose to play down Maharashtra PCC president Ranjit Deshmukh reported ultimatum to its coalition partner.

At a press conference in Mumbai on Saturday, Deshmukh had threatened to sever ties with the NCP if the latter continued to raise the issue of Gandhi's origins. "The Congress has granted Pawar a week's time to reconsider his stand or face dire consequences," he had said.

The comment had triggered a crisis in the state and threatened one at the central level too.

In a bid to contain the problem, party general secretary and in-charge of Maharashtra affairs Vayalar Ravi and party spokesman Anand Sharma told reporters in Delhi that Deshmukh's remark "was an expression of anger and strong resentment" as Congress workers in Maharashtra and all over the country felt strongly about the "uncalled for" remark by Pawar.

Earlier in the day, Deshmukh made a climbdown saying he had never given any ultimatum to Pawar nor talked of snapping ties with the NCP in the state.

This development was welcomed by the NCP. "This is a good statement as far as the government is concerned," NCP spokesperson Praful Patel told PTI in Mumbai on Monday.

Deshmukh, however, emphasised that all parties in a coalition should speak with restraint and should not talk "beyond a point and should not cross the Lakshman rekha."

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