Anger brews in Congress over Sonia's 'favouritism'
George Iype and Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
Resentment is brewing in the Congress over Sonia Gandhi's first official decision -- to nominate two of her confidants Oscar Fernandes and Santosh Mohan Deb to the Rajya Sabha.
Party sources said Congress Working Committee members Sharad Pawar, K Vijayabhaskara Reddy, R K Dhawan and A K Antony had warned Sonia against sending Fernandes and Deb to the Upper House as both of them had been defeated in the Lok Sabha elections.
By such a decision, they told her, she would be over-ruling the Congress Parliamentary Board resolution passed during the tenure of P V Narasimha Rao, prohibiting defeated leaders from getting a Rajya Sabha nomination for a year.
Both Fernandes and Deb, who have been nominated from Karnataka and Assam respectively, lost the Lok Sabha elections by huge margins.
Party sources said Fernandes and Deb had 'misguided' the new party president who was not fully aware of the CPB resolution. Both these leaders reportedly told Sonia that, in no state where Rajya Sabha seats are vacant, does the Congress have the requisite number of MLAs. Therefore, they insisted that the nominations should be left to the state Congress presidents.
However, another Congressman accuses Sonia of playing favourites. "By bending the rule laid down by the CPB, the new party president has exposed her preference for her close friends," said the leader who had hoped to get a Rajya Sabha berth. He said that Sonia's 'blunder' had annoyed many party leaders.
But now several senior leaders are queuing up before 10, Janpath for 'other favours'.
While many Congress leaders, who claim to be close to the Gandhi family, hope to be nominated to the CWC, sources said Sonia may also bring the two former party presidents P V Narasimha Rao and Sitaram Kesri into the decision-making body.
This, despite pressure on her to sideline Kesri. According to a former Congress general secretary, Kesri's worst critic is Arjun Singh, who tried to 'poison' Sonia's mind against him, telling her that when Chacha was the Congress chief, he used to tell his followers to keep her at arm's length.
Though she is not expected to act on such suggestions, she is expected to abolish the post of vice-president, which Kesri had created especially for Jitendra Prasada. She may also drop Kesri's friends Tariq Anwar and R K Dhawan from the CWC.
Sonia formally occupied the room of ousted Congress president Sitaram Kesri on Wednesday. She was there for 30 minutes and held informal meetings with senior leaders like Jitendra Prasada, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel and Madhavrao Scindia, during which it was decided to postpone the AICC session in New Delhi by two days. It will now be held on April 6.
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