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Sunday sizzle for Sonia and Soni

New Delhi, Dec. 5: In the wake of the humiliating poll defeat, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s core team will face a torrid time on Sunday, when the party’s working committee meets.

Sensing trouble, Sonia’s powerful general secretary Ambika Soni has “offered” to resign, owning moral responsibility for the drubbing in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, where she was in direct charge.

The Congress chief runs the risk of allowing her authority to be dented if she fails to come up with a convincing response to uncomfortable questions from sulking veterans.

Leaders like Arjun Singh and K. Karunakaran are unlikely to be too interested in finding out the causes of the defeat. Scalp-hunting will be the overwhelming sentiment on Sunday.

It will not be Soni alone who should be watching her head. Treasurer Motilal Vora and general secretaries Vayalar Ravi, Mukul Wasnik and Kamal Nath, all of whom are said to enjoy Sonia’s patronage, will be the others likely to be targeted, also because the Congress president will perhaps not be directly attacked.

Soni, already licking the wounds inflicted by her BJP counterparts Pramod Mahajan, who handled Rajasthan, and Arun Jaitley, in charge of Madhya Pradesh, will be the choice prey as she is widely considered the number two in Sonia’s AICC setup.

In the recent past, she was picked for target practice by Arjun Singh who accused her of building a coterie around Sonia.

Four months ago, Karunakaran had convinced Sonia that Soni was not good enough to hold charge of party affairs in his state Kerala, where he is skirmishing with chief minister A.K. Antony.

The Soni camp, of course, will point out how Singh had publicly apologised for the “non-performance” of the Digvijay Singh government in Madhya Pradesh, sabotaging the party.

Soni met Sonia last night and offered to resign. That her move was only tactical became evident today when party spokesman S. Jaipal Reddy remained non-committal on the fate of her offer. Sonia will decide, he said.

In the witch-hunt that is not unusual immediately after an election debacle, it is difficult to see how the CWC can get down to seriously discussing the utter failure of the party to gauge the public mood and to evolve a clear-cut policy with which to go to the people.

Development and governance, whether it means them or not, have become the BJP’s slogan and will remain so in the coming Lok Sabha polls.

Elections are also due next year in Andhra, Karnataka and Maharashtra.

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