The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia to wait & watch on Krishna

New Delhi, Oct. 25: Caught in a bind over the Cauvery standoff, Sonia Gandhi has decided to wait for the Supreme Court’s quantum of sentence against Karnataka chief minister S.M. Krishna on Monday before taking a stance on his fate.

The Congress chief, who met Krishna and other senior party leaders, hoped that the apex court would take a lenient view towards the chief minister, as he was not engaged in a “willful contempt of court”. Moreover, as chief minister of Karnataka, he was merely reflecting the collective will of the people of the state.

Krishna, camping in Delhi, avoided the media and refused to comment on Supreme Court’s “strictures” on the Cauvery issue. Unconfirmed reports said the Congress leadership has advised him to release more water to Tamil Nadu in case the situation starts getting out of hand. But for the record, party spokesman Anand Sharma maintained that the chief minister has been given a “free hand” to deal with the crisis.

Sources close to Sonia maintained that ideally she would not have liked a Congress chief minister to defy the apex court but there was a qualitative difference between Krishna’s case and instances of other Congress chief ministers stepping down when they were indicted by various courts of law.

“In this case, Krishna has been merely fulfilling his political duties as there is no personal misconduct involved. Had there been any other chief minister of the state belonging to any political party, he/she would have done the same,” a source close to Sonia said.

Congress sources said Krishna could be in trouble in case the apex court accords “exemplary punishment” to the chief minister. In such a scenario, Sonia would have little option but to ease him out. But she is extremely wary of resorting to such a course, as it would lead to a backlash in Karnataka. Congress leaders have been advising Sonia to stand by Krishna to reap political dividends in the state. Informed sources said Krishna’s lawyers were in constant touch with law officers to find a way out.

Party spokesman Sharma, holding that the apex court had not indicted the government on the issue of not releasing Cauvery waters to Tamil Nadu, said the need of the hour was to show statesmanship and to understand the problems faced by the people of Karnataka.

He said the party was hopeful that the state government would explain its stand before the court.

Asked if the party would allow Krishna to take the blame like the Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh for the Babri Masjid demolition, he said there was no parallel between the two.

He also denied any party directive to the state on its handling of water crisis, Sharma said the chief minister was given free hand to decide what was to be done in the interests of the state people.

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