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Sonia slams door on Naidu

New Delhi, June 20: Sonia Gandhi has made peace with Mulayam Singh Yadav, but not with Chandrababu Naidu.

Naidu, who has been Sonia’s most vocal critic after the Uttar Pradesh strongman, asked for an appointment with the Congress chief only to be turned down.

Three days ago, Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s crucial ally sent a formal request for a Saturday appointment in the capital.

Sonia wrote back today saying she was unable to find time for the Andhra Pradesh chief minister tomorrow but could meet him and his all-party team on Monday instead. Naidu is scheduled to return to Hyderabad tomorrow evening.

Naidu had turned to Sonia — he has in the past labelled her a foreigner who has no right to lead the nation and has no idea of the length and breadth of the country — to wriggle out of a spot the Congress had forced him into.

Cornered by an aggressive campaign against his government’s alleged failure to protect Andhra’s interests over Karnataka’s Paragodu barrage across Chitravati, the chief minister decided to lead an all-party team to Sonia. She was in the best position to restrain Congress-led Karnataka, he argued.

The Congress chief has made up with Mulayam — after attacks on her foreign origins in the past, he declared in Etawah last week that Sonia is a true Indian. But she chose not to oblige Naidu.

The all-party team, which includes Congress leaders Mysora Reddy and Diwakar Babu, will reach here tomorrow and meet Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee.

Sources said the Andhra Congress informed Sonia that a meeting with Naidu could take the sting out of its offensive. The state Congress has blamed Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party for allowing the Karnataka project to be cleared by the Centre. The United Front government, of which the Desam was a part, had given the go-ahead to the barrage.

The Karnataka Congress, too, advised Sonia against the meeting. It dismissed Andhra’s fears that the state intended to use water from the Paragodu drinking water project for irrigation.

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