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Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia shows who's boss

New Delhi, Nov. 5: Sonia Gandhi showed she was the party boss and not the government boss by publicly signalling changes in the Uttar Pradesh Congress.

Participating in an interactive session at a conference organised by Hindustan Times today, the Congress chief took the unusual step to demonstrate a clear-cut division of functions between her and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

'I am not the power behind the throne. I do not wish to be the power behind the throne,' Sonia said, responding to questions about the United Progressive Alliance's functioning. She is its chairperson.

The Opposition, she said, had made similar 'insinuations' when her late husband was the Prime Minister.

'It is not something that has happened just now. When Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister, I was supposed to have sacked ministers, brought new ones.'

Urging people not to take these allegations seriously, Sonia dismissed another Opposition charge. She asserted she 'does not look at government files or take government decisions'.

While she made it clear that Singh was the government boss, she made it as clear that she controlled Congress affairs. 'There would be changes in the Uttar Pradesh Congress committee... you can expect it even by this evening,' Sonia declared in response to a question.

She took the opportunity to allay fears about the Centre's stability. There could be hiccups, Sonia said, but the coalition was working on the basis of the common minimum programme and consultations among allies.

She dismissed any threat from the Left parties' criticism of government decisions and said they were entitled to air their views.

Fielding questions on her renunciation of the prime ministership, she said she would have to write a couple of chapters to throw light on her feelings at that time. 'You will have to wait for that book.'

The Congress' 'dismal' showing in the recent bypolls in Uttar Pradesh as also the Lok Sabha elections six months ago was disappointing as the state was important for the party, Sonia said.

A senior Congress general secretary said that other than Uttar Pradesh, the party units in Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Bengal and Punjab too might get new chiefs in the next two to three weeks.

Late this evening, Sonia nominated MLA Ram Babu Sharma as the Delhi Congress chief in place of Prem Singh, who recently became the Assembly Speaker.

Terror term

Manmohan Singh today indicated that stopping cross-border terrorism has returned as the 'condition' on which the improvement of India-Pakistan relations hinges, adds our special correspondent.

'We are committed to make an honest and sincere effort to resolve all outstanding issues. The only condition is the commitment that was made by President (Pervez) Musharraf in January to Prime Minister (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee that the territory of Pakistan will not be allowed to be used for purposes of cross-border-terrorism,' he said, speaking at the same conference.

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