The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong fears fresh din on foreign origin

New Delhi, Sept. 8: Behind closed doors, there is a genuine sense of insecurity among Congress activists who fear the controversy over party chief Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin would get fresh impetus if some eminent individuals raised objections to her becoming Prime Minister.

At present, there is no clear line of succession or mechanism in the Congress for a change in leadership. In an extreme situation, the possibility of Sonia paving the way for someone like Manmohan Singh, Narain Dutt Tiwari or A.K. Antony for the Prime Minister’s post is remote.

The Congress hierarchy and past traditions are such that there is just one power-centre combining the post of party president with Prime Ministerial claimant. Moreover, there is no unity or consensus over reforms guru Manmohan, Mr Clean Antony or senior leader Tiwari taking the mantle as long as Sonia is around as the All India Congress Committee chief.

The possibility of the next generation of the Gandhi family taking over is also far-fetched. It remains to be seen if Rahul or Priyanka would like to enter politics, given the treatment meted out to their mother. After all, the issue of foreign origin was first raised within the Congress by the very people who had queued up for seven long years pleading with Sonia to “lead” them.

The other prominent protagonists of the “foreigner issue” belong to non-NDA “secular” parties and individuals — the ADMK, Samajwadi Party, former Prime Minister Chandrashekhar and others who had forced Sonia to topple the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime in 1999 to keep the “communal forces” at bay.

It is an open secret that Priyanka, who doubles as Sonia’s close advisor, had opposed the coterie’s idea of the AICC chief attending the famous tea party hosted by maverick Subramanian Swamy.

Officially, the Congress may have steadfastly rubbished the objections raised by ADMK chief Jayalalithaa, but within the party there is a degree of unease.

Some senior Congress leaders wonder how the leadership would tackle the issue if, closer to the general elections, eminent persons from the field of literature, academics, social work, films and sports start endorsing Jayalalithaa’s views.

Jana breather

Union law minister Jana Krishnamurthi said today the Centre is not considering any proposal to bring in a legislation to ban foreigners from holding high constitutional posts.

“One cannot say now whether such a legislation is possible at a later date,” he said on his arrival at Meenambakkam Airport. The law minister was in the city on a private visit.

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