The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mayavati out of the way, Sonia set for Amethi

New Delhi, Sept. 18: A relaxed Sonia Gandhi visits her Amethi constituency tomorrow for the first time since her tormentor Mayavati lost power in Uttar Pradesh three weeks ago.

Mayavati had pulled out all the stops to try and eclipse the Gandhis in their traditional stronghold of Amethi since the Congress chief’s daughter Priyanka took up the cause of a Dalit in Punnupur village in November last year. The then chief minister made the February 2003 by-poll for the Gauriganj Assembly seat that falls under the Amethi Lok Sabha constituency a prestige battle and ensured that the BSP trounced the Congress.

Congress leaders think that Mulayam Singh Yadav can at least be counted upon not to create problems for the party in Amethi in return for the help he was provided in becoming chief minister last month.

Mulayam has said publicly that he will review the Mayavati government’s move to create a separate Shauji Maharaj Nagar district out of the Amethi parliamentary area in Sultanpur district. The Congress had vehemently opposed the decision.

The party also expects the new regime to undo the Mayavati regime’s decision to take away land belonging to the Indira Gandhi Pratisthan to set up an Ambedkar park and museum.

On the eve of Sonia’s two-day visit, senior party general secretary Ambika Soni could not hide the state unit’s relief at the change of regime in Lucknow. “The party is getting fresh impetus in Uttar Pradesh. Maybe it is not as big as we would want it. But our graph is going up,” Soni said.

Sonia will have another reason to be pleased in Amethi for she will have Sanjay Singh, Rajiv Gandhi’s campaign manager, by her side for the first time since she became party chief five years ago. Singh, who unsuccessfully challenged Sonia for the Amethi seat in the 1999 Lok Sabha elections as a BJP nominee, was re-admitted to the party last month after many years outside the Congress fold.

Sources said Singh, whose readmission had been delayed for some time, is believed to have assured Sonia that she would not have to worry about being re-elected from Amethi. But Singh, who won the 1998 Amethi Lok Sabha poll by defeating the Congress’ Satish Sharma, may have to worry about his wife Ameeta, who is a BJP MLA in the state.

If Singh is in a dilemma over his wife’s political affiliations, Sonia has to decide how close the Congress should get to Mulayam’s Samajwadi Party. The party is yet to decide its stand, as is apparent from its decision to stay out of the Mulayam government “for the time being”.

The Congress is still eyeing an alliance with Mayavati which might help it retain power during November’s Assembly poll in Chhattisgarh. As such, it reacted cautiously to today’s Supreme Court directive to the CBI to file an FIR against the former chief minister in the Taj heritage corridor scam. Party spokesperson made no political statement against Mayavati, choosing instead to say: “We have to study the court order in detail before making any comment on it.”

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