The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Split units leave chief choice to Sonia

New Delhi, May 27: Sonia Gandhi has been authorised by 13 Congress units to pick state presidents as there is no consensus on any candidate.

Sources said pradesh returning officers sent by the AICC to conduct the exercise had been advised not to go in for contests if there is no consensus. This has put paid to the hopes of faction leaders who had fancied their chances in case of a contest.

Only the Assam and Andhra units have been able to pick their chiefs unanimously.

There is near consensus on Salman Khursheed as Uttar Pradesh unit chief though there are some conflicting opinions.

The states that have sent authorisation letters include Bengal, Karnataka, Delhi, Uttaranchal, Maharashtra, Manipur, Orissa, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Goa and Jammu and Kashmir. Sonia will also have to pick the PCC chief for Bihar, now awaiting elections.

However, the nomination process will have to wait till Sonia is formally re-elected Congress president.

This is expected to be announced tomorrow by party central election authority chairperson Oscar Fernandes as the deadline for filing nominations lapsed today.

Over 100 nominations were filed proposing and seconding Sonia’s name for re-election to a fresh three-year term.

As no other candidate has challenged Sonia, an announcement on her re-election is a formality.

“If nobody else has filed nomination, we cannot put up a dummy candidate to arrange a contest,” party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said today.

Bhel fire

The Left parties’ fire on the decision to divest 10 per cent government equity in Bharat Heavy Electricals has breached the Congress’s tolerance limit for the first time.

In an unusually combative rebuttal, it said today “the CPM and CPI criticism is uncalled for”.

Rejecting the demand to reconsider the decision, spokesperson Singhvi said “there is no veto (for any constituent) in a coalition” set-up.

The tough reaction has come on the heels of the Left’s decision to skip the UPA’s first anniversary bash last Sunday. The Congress had tried hard to persuade the Left that its attendance was imperative to put up a show of solidarity.

“Their attitude is harming the UPA’s image of being a cohesive coalition,” a party general secretary had said. But the Congress, the largest coalition partner, had so far been keeping mum, he said.

Singhvi said the Left had got the common minimum programme provisions on navratnas and the Bhel decision all wrong. “It is wrong to see (the 10 per cent offloading of Bhel equity) as a disinvestment decision,” he said. Even after the offloading, the government would retain “overwhelming control” over the PSU.

The proceeds would accrue to the national renewal fund meant to finance spending on health and education, he said.

On CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury’s and CPI national secretary D. Raja’s claim that the Left parties were not consulted, Singhvi said the Congress stood by finance minister P. Chidambaram’s statement to the contrary.

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