The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Arjun in coterie slur

New Delhi, May 21: Invoking Rajiv Gandhi’s landmark Congress centenary speech at Mumbai in 1985, senior leader Arjun Singh today said the party was plagued by groupism.

Singh made his remarks at a public meeting organised by the Delhi Congress to mark Rajiv’s 12th death anniversary.

While Singh later denied most of what was attributed to him in a news agency report on the function, he stood by his remarks on Congress groupism.

“Groupism (in the Congress) is there. It has always been there within some limits. But now it seems to be the only thing present,” Singh said when asked to react to the news agency’s account of his speech.

“The general impression is that we (Congressmen) are concerned with ourselves and not about the party,” Singh said. He added that it was thought that Congressmen pursued positions of power and authority and were not committed to the party and its goals.

Singh said he asked party chief Sonia Gandhi’s polit- ical secretary Ahmed Patel to reprint Rajiv’s centenary speech and distribute it among Congressmen. Rajiv had attacked coteries in the party, the growing influence of “contractors” and the widening gulf between the Congress and the people.

Singh said it was no use to talk about Rajiv’s dream or mouth slogans praising Sonia if “we are not able to understand what he (Rajiv) said. It would be sad if this happens”, he added.

But Singh, who projected himself as a loyal Rajiv soldier, would not say if he was referring to any particular leader or set of leaders.

He also denied he was expressing his disapproval over the recent AICC reshuffle which is widely seen in party circles to have strengthened the position of Ambika Soni as unofficial number two in the Congress.

Singh is not known to have resented Soni’s meteoric rise under the Sonia dispensation. “Reshuffle is farthest from my mind. What do I have to do with the reshuffle' I have never angled for anything,” he said.

Singh said he was emphasising the need to end groupism and forge unity as testing times lay ahead of the Congress. People are hoping the Congress will unseat the National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre, he said.

If the party was to take advantage of these sentiments, the Congress would have to put the interests of the party above self-interest and end groupism and caste-based politics.

It is learnt that the AICC was relieved to find Singh had disowned remarks attributed to him in the news agency report. Although it was taken aback by his allegations of groupism, Soni declined to comment.

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