Home > News > Specials
The Rediff Special/George Iype in New Delhi
The drama before curtain call
May 19, 2004
In the hours before Dr Manmohan Singh was officially announced as the Congress nominee for the prime minister's post, the party's headquarters witnessed another day of high-pitched, frenzied political drama.
A section of Sonia's aides attempted to thwart Dr Singh's appointment as prime minister by trying to compel her to reconsider her decision.
The Indian National Congress' position as the party with the most Lok Sabha seats in Election 2004 and Sonia's imminent installation as prime minister had improved the prospects of a number of Congress leaders close to her: they hoped they would be part of the power centre and would bag plum Cabinet berths.
But Sonia's rejection of the prime ministerial post shattered their hopes.
So, throughout Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, a section of Congress leaders led by Arjun Singh, Ambika Soni, Pranab Mukherjee, Ahmed Patel and Ghulam Nabi Azad worked hard to ensure she reconsidered her decision.
Mukherjee, a Congress leader disclosed, tried to lobby against Dr Singh's candidature by suggesting that he (Mukherjee) should be considered for the prime minister's post since he had won an election this time (the first Lok Sabha election he has ever won). Dr Singh is a member of the Rajya Sabha.
Not many in the Congress supported his claim. "The biggest problem was that nobody had the courage to utter a word against Sonia's choice, Manmohan Singh," a Congress leader told rediff.com
When Sonia refused to reconsider her stand, Congress leaders led by Ambika Soni organised a hurried press conference to announce that every Congress Working Committee member and all the All India Congress Committee office bearers were resigning in protest; they wanted Sonia as PM.
This, as it turned out, was the penultimate phase of this political drama.
Some six CWC leaders then rushed to Sonia's 10, Janpath home around 2 pm, making a last ditch attempt to convince her to take on the mantle of running the country.
Sonia rejected the plea outright. As the dejected Congress leaders left her home, they said, "It's going to be Dr Manmohan Singh."
Now that Sonia has shown the world she is not greedy for power and position, Congress leaders will need to rethink the manner in which they are lobbying for ministerial berths.
"Let the new prime minister be sworn in. Let him discuss with the alliance partners and the Congress president as to who will be in his council of ministers," Congress General Secretary Vayalar Ravi told rediff.com.
It is a given that Dr Singh will seek Gandhi's advice while selecting his Cabinet.
Those who are certain to be inducted include Pranab Mukherjee, K Natwar Singh, Ambika Soni, Ahmed Patel, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kapil Sibal and Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi.
Other Congress MPs harbouring ministerial ambitions include S Jaipal Reddy, Prithviraj Chavan, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Meira Kumar, Renuka Chowdhary, Anand Sharma, Shankar Singh Vaghela, Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar and Selja.