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'Something big is awaiting Antony in Delhi'
George Iype in Thiruvananthapuram | August 31, 2004 12:10 IST
Senior Congress leader A K Antony who quit as Kerala chief minister two days back will be given a key role in the party's central leadership in Delhi to help Congress president Sonia Gandhi run the organisational affairs.
Antony resigned on Sunday owning moral responsibility for the Congress' bad performance in Kerala in the April-May Lok Sabha elections.
His close friend and senior party leader Oommen Chandy is the state's new chief minister.
Though Antony has insisted that he wants to work for the party in Kerala, Congress leaders said that it is certain that party president Gandhi wants him in Delhi.
But it is not yet sure whether Antony will be accommodated as a Cabinet minister in the Manmohan Singh government or made a key man in charge of the party affairs.
Party officials said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is eager to induct Antony into the government as he has a clean image. One of the major opposition charges against the Manmohan government is that it has at least five ministers who are 'tainted'.
The usual practice is that a party Member of Parliament in the Lok Sabha resigns to make way for a new minister who is not a member.
But in Antony's case it is not a viable option because Kerala does not have a single Congress member in the Lok Sabha. There is no vacancy in the Rajya Sabha also until next year.
Therefore, Gandhi is in all likelihood wo;; make Antony one of her close aides to run party affairs.
Antony is credited to be one of the few Congress leaders with a clean image in the country. Gandhi is eager to hand over him major party responsibilities rather than limit his services just to Kerala.
"Antony is one of the finest Congress leaders in the country. I am sure something big is awaiting him. I am sure the party high command will entrust him with great responsibilities," Congress secretary Anil Shastri, who is in Kerala to oversee the power-shift, told rediff.com
Already, Antony is a Congress Working Committee member. It is most likely that he would be now given an array of duties to run the party affairs from Delhi.
Gandhi has given Congress chief ministers who were defeated in elections in the past key positions in the organisation. So former chief ministers Digvijay Singh, Ashok Gehlot, Ajit Jogi and S M Krishna are key
But party leaders said that Antony's new position in the Congress will be similar to the role that AICC general secretary Ahmed Patel enjoys in the party.
Patel is considered the most influential Congress leader close to Gandhi in party affairs.
More reports from Kerala