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Sonia sends Vora to UP

New Delhi, Jan. 28: Shaken by Uttar Pradesh Speaker Kesri Nath Tripathi’s recognition of the breakaway group of the party in the state, Congress president Sonia Gandhi directed party treasurer Motilal Vora, who is also in charge of the state, and former Union law minister H.R. Bhardwaj to rush to Lucknow for fire-fighting.

Vora said the team would leave for the state capital either tonight or early tomorrow.

Ahead of his departure, Vora, as also Sonia’s political secretary Ambika Soni, disapproved of Tripathi granting recognition to the breakaway group under the provisions of the anti-defection law. The order, they said, was “wrong and improper”.

Vora, a one-term Governor of Uttar Pradesh, vowed to challenge Tripathi’s order, but did not specify whether the party will approach a court of law or the Speaker. The party is consulting constitutional and legal experts.

The Speaker’s recognition of the Congress Legislature Party split, the second since December 1997, did not fulfil the basic requirements under the anti-defection law, Vora said. He elaborated that a split required one-third of the members to cross over. In this case, only seven of the members walked out as against the minimum eight members required.

The treasurer expressed surprise over Tripathi’s decision to club Akhilesh Singh, an expelled Congress legislator, with today’s defectors. The Speaker had recognised Singh as an “unattached” member last November following his expulsion, Vora added.

While the party’s central leaders were guarded in their criticism of the Speaker’s action, they launched a no-holds-barred attack on chief minister Mayavati and her BJP allies. The coalition government had been threatening the Congress legislators to switch sides for some time, Soni accused.

For over a month, the party high command has been aware of Mayavati’s efforts to carve the legislature party. Apparently, some of the Congress factions, including those loyal to Begum Noor Banu and Jagadambika Pal, were encouraging the MLAs to break away and extend support to Mayavati.

The fluid situation had prompted Sonia to summon the MLAs to Delhi last month and give them a patient hearing. To keep the “restless” MLAs away from Mayavati’s lure of ministerial rewards, the high command early this month expressed its readiness to support the formation of a secular alternative to the Mayavati government, presumably by extending support to the Samajwadi Party’s claims for government formation.

On Monday, the Samajwadi put paid to the Congress’ hopes of a bypoll tie-up when it “unilaterally announced its candidates for the Gauriganj and Haidergarh Assembly byelections on February 26.

Apparently, the Congress had sought support for its candidate in Gauriganj in return for its backing to the Samajwadi nominee in Haidergarh. The Gauriganj constituency, an Assembly segment in Sonia’s Amethi Lok Sabha constituency, fell vacant after sitting a Congress MLA’s death.

The party today announced its nominees for both seats — party secretary Imran Kidwai being the last minute nominee for the Haidergarh seat that fell vacant following BJP leader Rajnath Singh’s election to the Rajya Sabha recently.

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