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Vora snowed under bring-Priyanka cry

Lucknow, Jan. 29: Sonia Gandhi’s emissary Motilal Vora was greeted with cries of “Priyanka lao, pradesh bachao (Bring Priyanka in politics, save the party in Uttar Pradesh)” from party supporters as he arrived here to take stock of the situation after the split in the Congress Legislature Party.

Vora tried to play down the mounting wave of resentment against the party’s state leadership and pass on the blame to chief minister Mayavati and Speaker Kesari Nath Tripathi. “The Speaker’s decision to recognise the split is unconstitutional,” he said, accusing Mayavati of using the carrot-and-stick policy to engineer defections.

But his comments seemed to have little effect on angry district party presidents and MLAs, who blamed legislature party chief Pramod Tewari for the mess. “Tewari has been acting as a parallel centre of power within the Uttar Pradesh Congress since 1993 and has worked at cross purposes with successive PCC chiefs like Salman Khurshid, Jitendra Prasada and Sri Prakash Jaiswal,” said an MLA.

Many of them told Vora that Priyanka’s entry into politics had become a necessary condition for the party’s resurgence in Uttar Pradesh. “None of the state leaders in the faction-ridden Uttar Pradesh Congress has the calibre and charisma to lead the masses and Soniaji is too busy to devote much time to Uttar Pradesh. Priyanka alone can galvanise us into action,” said state Youth Congress chief Mohammed Shameem, echoing his colleagues.

Some of the district Congress committees have already started passing resolutions and sending them to the high command to press for Priyanka’s entry into politics. The Congress president was presented a similar resolution by the Youth Congress during her visit to Amethi earlier this month.

Party workers at the grassroots level feel that neither state unit chief Arun Kumar Singh Munna nor Tewari can revive the party. “All of them are self-seeking bunglers who have been foisted on us from the top and they fight each other instead of fighting the BSP and the BJP,” said Bhoodhar Narain Mishra, a former MLA. For Vora, who remained closeted with Tewari and Munna to assess the damage, the immediate worry was how to prevent others from joining the breakaway group. While recognising the splinter group as the Akhil Bharatiya Congress yesterday, Speaker Tripathi had said he had been told that more Congress MLAs might join the new outfit. “I will decide about them when they approach me.”

The fear of more defections has forced Vora and the state party leaders to train their guns on the Speaker. “Our legislators were held captive in the Speaker’s chamber for five hours and threatened by government officials,” Vora told reporters. According to him, three of the seven Congress deserters had confided that they were forced to switch sides due to coercion.

Asked about the party’s future course of action, Vora and Munna appeared at a loss for words. The only token of protest from the party was a letter delivered to Tripathi seeking a review of his decision. “We are holding meetings to finalise the action plan to deal with the BJP and the BSP,” Vora said.

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