The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mulayam in Sonia cabinet call

New Delhi, Sept. 10: Shedding its reluctance, the Congress will give a serious thought to joining the Mulayam Singh Yadav government in Uttar Pradesh.

At his first meeting with Sonia Gandhi after becoming chief minister, Mulayam Singh tonight formally invited the Congress to join his ministry. Emerging out of a 45-minute meeting at 10 Janpath, Mulayam Singh said Sonia had assured him that she would take up the matter with the party working committee.

Before the meeting, the Samajwadi Party chief expressed regrets over his remarks in 1999 about her foreign origin and thanked her for her help in forming the government. “I regret the mistakes I made in 1999,” he said. “Whatever she (Sonia) has done till now is praiseworthy.”

The Congress president is the first leader Mulayam Singh met after his parliamentary board meeting at the Samajwadi office.

The meeting revived Uttar Pradesh Congress leaders’ hopes of getting the high command’s green signal for joining the Mulayam Singh ministry. State chief Jagdambika Pal met Sonia this morning to convince her. Though the state unit is in favour of joining the ministry, many central leaders are not.

Sources said Sonia was unlikely to take an immediate decision on Pal’s plea. But her meeting Mulayam was a decisive step forward in taking a decision.

However, the Congress might want to know whether or not Mulayam Singh plans to continue with Kesri Nath Tripathi as Speaker and how it proposes to handle the Babri Masjid demolition case against deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and other senior BJP leaders. The Congress would like a new Speaker and restoration of the criminal conspiracy case against Advani and others.

Samajwadi general secretary Amar Singh, who briefed reporters today, did not indulge in his customary attack on the BJP. Asked if the Speaker, who belonged to the BJP, would be replaced, he said the government had not thought about the matter and would decide after consulting allies.

Mulayam Singh will call on President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani tomorrow.

The chief minister indicated that he has no immediate plans to resign his Lok Sabha seat as he has more than five months to decide, but said he would quit as chairman of Parliament’s petroleum standing committee on September 14.

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