The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia set for alliance super seat
Sonia pays tribute at the samadhi of Rajiv Gandhi in Delhi on Friday. (PTI)

New Delhi, May 21: Prime Minister-designate Manmohan Singh may not have to shoulder the burden of ironing out ticklish political problems in the United Progressive Alliance.

Sonia Gandhi, who already wears two caps, one as party president and the other as chairperson of the Congress parliamentary party, is also expected to head the proposed coordination committee of the alliance.

There are strong indications from the Congress that she would become the chairperson of the coordination committee, a departure from the practice of the outgoing National Democratic Alliance and its United Front predecessor during 1996-98. In both, the Prime Minister also headed the coordination panel.

Last Sunday, the allies elected Sonia their leader. But at that time she was also the prime ministerial candidate of the UPA. Though the coordination committee is yet to be set up, it is Sonia, and not Manmohan, who is conducting the tough negotiations with leaders of the allied parties on ministry formation.

“It is a clear indication that Sonia will continue to be the central political figure in the UPA. She would handle all political issues and sort out things for Manmohan to run the day-to-day governance smoothly,” said a senior Congress leader.

Like the United Front coordination committee, the UPA panel headed by Sonia would decide all major policy issues for the government. Manmohan will be a member of the panel. There are talks that he might be made Sonia’s deputy.

Sonia is already the supreme leader in the parliamentary wing of the Congress, a position that was always held by the Prime Minister whenever the party was in power. While she vacated the post of the leader of the CPP for Manmohan to pave the way for his appointment as Prime Minister, a new supreme position of chairperson was created for her by amending the party constitution.

The post of chairperson of the coordination committee would further consolidate her grip over the new establishment, without being in the Prime Minister’s chair.

Efforts are on to persuade Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Laloo Prasad Yadav to become the convener of the coordination committee, a post which his Bihar rival George Fernandes held in the NDA. Laloo Prasad, who is said to be eyeing the home ministry, is likely to accept the post, sources said.

The coordination committee is expected to be in place when the UPA is ready with its common minimum programme for governance. The Congress has circulated a working draft of the programme among its allies for their comments.

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