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Cong listens to sole
Tytler and Sajjan eased out
Retreat...
...and rage
A protester outside the Karkardooma courts in Delhi on Thursday. Picture by Prem Singh

New Delhi, April 9: Sonia Gandhi today once again unsheathed a weapon she has made her own — her “inner voice” — and got Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar to drop out of the election in the face of mounting anger among Sikhs over their candidature.

The Congress president allowed Tytler, an accused in the 1984 riots that killed 4,000 Sikhs, to explain his position and “unilaterally” decide against fighting from Northeast Delhi. An emotional Tytler announced: “My heart says if it is not in the interest of the party, I believe I shouldn’t fight elections.”

A local court today deferred to April 28 the hearing on the CBI’s petition seeking permission to close the riots case against him.

Journalist Jarnail Singh’s shoe missile, sent flying on Tuesday in protest against the CBI’s clean chit to Tytler, also hit a second target. Sajjan Kumar, also accused by victims of a role in the 1984 riots, found himself “withdrawn” as the candidate from South Delhi.

Behind the scenes, Oscar Fernandes, Ahmad Patel, Pranab Mukherjee and Mohsina Kidwai played a pivotal role in trying to convert the party’s discomfort over the 1984 riots being forced on the poll agenda into an advantage.

Fernandes, the general secretary in charge of Delhi, told Tytler the Sikh protests were bothering the party president’s conscience. The MP is said to have responded that he would not “hesitate” a minute if the party leadership was uncomfortable but complained that he was the victim of a “motivated campaign”.

Patel, Sonia’s political secretary, and foreign minister Mukherjee comforted Tytler and Sajjan, telling them their exit did not mean the party was holding them guilty. But the Congress did not want to be seen as insensitive to a sense of hurt in a community.

Congress general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi said both Tytler and Sajjan had opted out of the contest so as not to vitiate the atmosphere ahead of the polls.

Kidwai, the general secretary in charge of Punjab, asked party leaders in the state to highlight the “ease” with which Sonia had removed candidates who did not have strong legal cases against them. Party managers are hoping Sonia’s gesture will send a “positive signal” to the minorities.

Sajjan Kumar

When a section of the party argued yesterday that Tytler’s candidature should be decided by the court’s acceptance or rejection of the CBI report, Sonia was quiet, suggesting she did not agree, sources said. The Congress president, known to go by her “inner voice” and “instincts”, felt the party should bow to Sikh sentiments without bothering about losing two Delhi seats.

Sonia’s “inner voice” had spoken famously on May 18, 2004, when she stunned the country by turning down the post of Prime Minister. The “inner voice” floored her foes again on March 23, 2006, when she quit as Lok Sabha MP and chairperson of the National Advisory Council after the office-of-profit controversy.

“If I would have fought this time, I would have won by 200,000 votes,” said Tytler, who was born Jagdish Kapoor in 1944 to a Hindu father who died when he was a child and a Sikh mother. He was later brought up by educationist Rev. James Douglas Tytler, the founder of Delhi Public School and several other schools, and converted to Christianity.

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