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Congress MPs plead with Sonia to stay

May 18, 2004 20:02 IST
Last Updated: May 18, 2004 23:30 IST

Congress members of Parliament on Tuesday evening pleaded with party president Sonia Gandhi to reconsider her decision not to take up the prime minister's post.

After she announced her decision at a meeting of the Congress parliamentary party, the MPs spoke one by one, telling her that only she could take the party and country to greater heights.

"The inner voice of people says you should become the prime minister... Please don't leave us. Please continue to lead us," pleaded Mani Shankar Aiyar, referring to her statement that she had listened to her "inner voice".

Quoting from Gandhi's address, he said the Congress had a "long struggle ahead, but this cannot be successful without you".

Aiyar said the vote for the Congress was actually a vote for her and asked her not to "betray the people".

Noted lawyer Kapil Sibal said Gandhi had no parallel in the country in leadership and "our faith is only with you.

"It is not an issue of becoming the prime minister. Prime ministers come and go. But you have thought of people. And there is nobody in this hall entitled to be the prime minister."

He said the Congress had the task of finishing fundamentalist forces forever. "Unless you are there, our inspiration will not be there."

Congress leader A R Antulay termed Gandhi's decision as tragic and said she should not abdicate the responsibility given to her by the people.

"Terrorism in this country can only be stopped if you take over as PM," he added.

Subodh Kant Sahay slammed Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushma Swaraj for her protests against Gandhi's candidature for prime ministership. "Sushma Swaraj is a disgrace to decency. How can she talk of tonsuring her head, being a married lady?" he said.

D Narayana Rao, MP from Andhra Pradesh, told Gandhi that people in the state had voted for her and she should therefore rethink her decision.

He also accused BJP leader and Madhya Pradesh chief minister Uma Bharti of resorting to "blackmail" in order to pressure Gandhi not to accept the post.

"If she really wanted to resign, she should have given it to the governor and not to her party president," he said.

Bharti had sent her resignation to BJP president M Venkaiah Naidu.

The Congress' Rajya Sabha member Suresh Pachauri went to the extent of threatening to resign if Gandhi did not agree to become PM.

In a choked voice, Renuka Choudhary said, "Selfish Congressmen had used you when they were in trouble. But you protected every Congressman of the country. Now when we are strong, you and only you should lead us."

Meira Kumar, MP from Bihar, said, "The decision taken by you (Gandhi) cannot be taken by anyone else in the country. But let me convey this, that the post of prime minister is a post of serving the country much better."

Congress leader from Mumbai Gurudas Kamath said the country needed a Congress government and the Congress needed Gandhi.

The newly elected MP from Jammu, Lal Singh, said his state needed Gandhi's touch.

Former Union minister Balasaheb Vikhe-Patil said Gandhi had "no option but to rethink your decision as we have asked for votes only in your name".

R Prabhu said if Gandhi did not become PM, "people will think fascist conspiracy in the country has won".

Former Delhi police commissioner Nikhil Kumar, who is an MP from Bihar, asked Gandhi to accept the post.

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