The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia plots brothers’ duel

Raipur, Sept. 2: Sonia Gandhi is now trying her hand at a new game: brother versus brother.

She is trying her persuasive best to pit Shyama Charan Shukla against younger brother and breakaway Congress leader Vidya Charan Shukla, offering him the ornamental post of head of the party’s campaign committee in Chhattisgarh.

But Shyama Charan, a former chief minister of undivided Madhya Pradesh, is not biting the bait. Although he has famously opposed whatever Vidya Charan has advocated, he is reluctant to play second fiddle to chief minister Ajit Jogi.

The family dramatics do not end there. Shyama Charan’s son Ametesh is a minister in the Jogi government and has been insisting his father help out the chief minister.

But 81-year-old Shyama Charan is not obliging because he thinks he is very much a contender for the hot seat, for which polls are due in November.

Jogi is not sitting idle either. Apart from egging Ametesh on to prevail on papa, he has been sending feelers to Shyama bhaiya. While the post of chief minister is non-negotiable, Jogi is ready to accommodate some of Shyama Charan’s supporters and is promising to ensure his victory in the Lok Sabha.

The chief minister has been telling one and all that it was he who took the lead in proposing the “single name” of Shyama Charan as head of the Congress’ campaign committee to Sonia.

Yesterday, Sonia asked Shyama Charan to “do his bit” for the coming elections. He could not say no to Sonia but told Jogi later that he needed time.

Sources close to Shyama Charan said he was reluctant to take up the assignment on three counts. First, he hates the idea of playing second fiddle to Jogi. Second, he dislikes Jogi’s concept of “social engineering” (rallying around backwards, Dalits and tribals against the upper castes). Third, he does not want to come in the way of Vidya Charan — in spite of his own aspirations — who, at 76, is making a last-ditch effort to stage a comeback in state politics.

Old-timers recall that feuds in the Shukla family are not new. Both brothers had tried but failed to join politics during the lifetime of their illustrious father Ravi Shankar Shukla.

In 1957, Ravi Shankar Shukla was denied a Lok Sabha ticket by Jawaharlal Nehru and subsequently died of cardiac arrest. Jawaharlal Nehru then gave tickets to both sons for the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.

Jogi exuded confidence that Shyama Charan would take up the assignment. “He has sought more time and I am sure that in the larger interests of the party, Shyama bhaiya will extend his patronage and grace the campaign committee panel.”

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