The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Azad hole in action net

New Delhi, April 18: The Congress high command’s promise yesterday to act against dissidence in the Kerala party unit today came unstuck after Ghulam Nabi Azad, one of the three leaders involved in the decision-making process, mysteriously disappeared from the capital.

AICC general secretary in-charge of Kerala affairs Ambika Soni, along with Azad and R.K. Dhawan, was scheduled to meet party chief Sonia Gandhi to decide on a course of action against the K. Karunakaran-led revolt in Kerala and restore party discipline and unity. Dhawan and Azad are the two central observers for the Rajya Sabha elections in the state, which were held on Monday.

But only Soni was present at the meeting with Sonia late this evening. After talking with the party chief for two hours, Soni said the Kerala issue had not progressed from where it was yesterday following her meeting with the central observers.

As Azad was not available, she said, the matter had not figured at all during her meeting with Sonia. All discussions were about the party’s preparations for the November Assembly elections, she said.

Asked why Azad had not turned up for his scheduled meeting with the party president, Soni said: “He is on a private visit outside the capital.”

Azad, she said, would return to the capital tomorrow and as she would be away in Ajmer on Sunday, any further development on the Kerala issue would take place only on Monday.

Azad’s disappearance fuelled speculation in Congress circles that the two observers might have actually scuttled Soni’s resolve to crack down on the revolt against the party leadership over the Rajya Sabha elections.

The two observers, perceived to be not on the best of terms with Soni, have reportedly advised against disciplinary action at this stage. Soni, however, insists that she and the two were “unanimous” at yesterday’s meeting on their assessment of the Kerala situation.

Virtually retracting from her pledge yesterday to initiate steps within 24 hours to solve the Kerala crisis, Soni today said there could not be any timeframe for action. The party leadership would have to properly assess the conflicting reports it has received from Kerala leaders, including the one from Kerala party chief K. Muraleedharan, who is known to derive his strength from the group led by his father, Karunakaran.

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