The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia armed with coronation clause

New Delhi, May 19: Sonia Gandhi’s authority over the parliamentary wing of her party will continue undiluted even though Manmohan Singh was elected Congress parliamentary party leader today.

The Congress chief welcomed the Prime Minister-elect’s elevation as CPP leader, saying: “I am happy to ask Dr Manmohan Singh to take on this great responsibility (as Prime Minister).” But the CPP constitution was amended before Singh was elected to create the post of a chairperson more powerful than the CPP leader.

Sonia was elected to this post, with the constitutional amendments ensuring that Singh will take over as Prime Minister, essentially as the CPP chairperson’s nominee. The amendment is intended to ensure that dual power centres do not emerge in the party.

Before electing Singh CPP leader, the parliamentary party at its meeting here this evening adopted two amendments to the parliamentary party constitution. The first amendment paved the way for Singh’s elevation to the post of Prime Minister and the other ensured Sonia’s supremacy in the parliamentary party.

Under the provisions of the CPP constitution, the CPP leader’s post was the highest. As such, Singh would have nominated the leader of the Lok Sabha (he belongs to the Rajya Sabha) and the deputy leaders and chief whips in both Houses.

But, as party chief spokesman S. Jaipal Reddy later said, clause five of the CPP constitution was amended to create the chairperson’s post. Sonia was unanimously elected CPP chairperson — after Pranab Mukherjee proposed her name and K. Karunakaran seconded it.

The CPP leader has always been directly elected by the parliamentary party; the constitutional amendment ensures that the CPP will also elect the chairperson. Under sub clause “C”, added to the constitution by way of amendment, the chairperson and not the CPP leader will nominate the party leaders in both Houses as well as the deputy leaders and chief whips.

The amended clause reads: “The chairperson shall have the authority to name the leader of (the) Congress parliamentary party to head the government, if necessary.”

On the basis of this amendment, Sonia proposed Singh’s name as CPP leader and cleared the way for his appointment as Prime Minister.

It has been a Congress convention that the party chief is also the CPP leader. But after Sonia refused to become Prime Minister yesterday, she could not have become CPP leader since the President can invite only the latter to form the government.

By ensuring that Singh becomes Prime Minister as a Sonia nominee, the amendment is aimed at pre-empting rival power centres from emerging in the Congress’ organisational wing and its parliamentary party.

Reddy said the amendments were proposed by senior leader A.R. Antulay and seconded by Arjun Singh.

Sonia assured Congress members that she would be by their side and dutifully discharge her responsibilities as MP, CPP chairperson and party chief. Singh said he was aware of his limitations but would try to carry out his allotted role. He added that he would continue to need Sonia’s guidance and leadership.

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