Expulsion cry for Sonia return
Sachin back after father?s death
Manmohan contingency choice
Kalyan sacrifices Kusum
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, May 19 
Rebel Congress leaders Sharad Pawar, Tariq Anwar and P.A. Sangma face disciplinary action in tomorrow?s Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting even as Sonia Gandhi refused to rescind her decision to resign as party president.

While Congress leaders were unanimous that the dissidents should be expelled, Sonia Gandhi favoured action in accordance with the party constitution which involves slapping a showcause notice first before dismissing them.

Congress leaders feel the rebels? ouster will boost prospects of Sonia Gandhi reconsidering her move to step down. Moreover, the party wants to send out the signal that it would not tolerate any challenge to Sonia Gandhi, especially on her foreign origin, an issue being raised by the BJP.

Even in the absence of any hope that Sonia Gandhi would reconsider her decision, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh declared that she would be the party?s prime ministerial candidate in the polls.

All state Congress unit chiefs and legislature party leaders passed a unanimous resolution seeking the expulsion of the Pawar-led trio. They later called on Sonia Gandhi offering to step down from their posts.

For the third successive day, the entire CWC pleaded with Sonia Gandhi to withdraw her resignation, but in vain. 10 Janpath sources said it was unlikely that she would yield as the decision was taken after serious consideration and lengthy discussions with daughter Priyanka and son Rahul. The sources, however, suggested that Sonia Gandhi would continue to ??patronise?? the Congress, giving rise to hopes that she would campaign for the party.

The drama outside her residence continued with a party worker Manju Sachdeva attempting self-immolation. But she was prevented by other Congress supporters.

Similar reports of attempted self-immolation came in from Hyderabad and Bhopal. 10 Janpath received a fax written in blood from Calcutta from 50 West Bengal Mahila Congress leaders urging her to review her stand.

Throughout the day, party workers from neighbouring states and Delhi continued demonstrations outside 10 Janpath demanding withdrawal of Sonia Gandhi?s resignation and action against Pawar, Sangma and Anwar. Fed up with round-the-clock traffic snarls, the Delhi police banned parking of vehicles outside 10 Janpath and 24 Akbar Road, the AICC headquarters.

However, Sonia Gandhi remained unfazed and summoned AICC general secretaries Ambika Soni, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Oscar Fernandes to ask party workers to stop the demonstrations outside her house.

For the first time since the crisis erupted, the Congress tried to appear normal with spokesman Ajit Jogi raising the issue of the murder of journalist Shivani and asked the Vajpayee government to probe the alleged role of a senior Union minister.

The trio which questioned Sonia Gandhi?s foreign origin has been invited to tomorrow?s CWC meet but the rebel leaders will not attend. Sangma is returning to the capital tonight. Pawar is scheduled to make an important announcement tomorrow in Pune where he will hold a public meeting and a press conference.

At the meeting of heads of Congress frontal organisations, CLP leaders and PCC chiefs, the leaders demanded the expulsion of Pawar, Anwar and Sangma.

CLP leader from Maharashtra Chaggan Bhujbal, who is siding with Pawar, was not present at today?s meeting. The chief ministers of Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh and the PCC chief of Meghalaya were not present either. Their absence is being seen as tacit support to Sangma.

There was no sign of a climbdown by the rebels. Anwar said they were ready to face disciplinary action. ??We stick to our stand. We are not going to give up the foreign origin issue,?? he said.    

May 19 
Sachin Tendulkar rushed back home on his father?s death, setting foot in Mumbai close to midnight. In another time zone, almost at the same moment, the Indian innings folded up at Leicester, three runs short of the Zimbabwe total.

Marathi poet Ramesh Tendulkar, who had been ill for a while and had an angioplasty in February, died of a heart attack at his Bandra residence. He was 69. The family said the cremation will be on Thursday.

Boyhood friend Vinod Kambli was at the airport to receive Sachin, his wife Anjali, daughter Sara and brother Ajit. Kambli said: ?I embraced him. I haven?t talked to him. I am going to his house rightaway.?

In the morning, one of Sachin?s neighbours in Mumbai called India coach Aunshuman Gaekwad to inform him of the death. At a loss, Gaekwad called Anjali and asked her to speak to Sachin. Only after that did Gaekwad and manager Brijesh Patel meet Sachin and arrange his return to Mumbai.

Sachin left Leicester for London in a car around 5.30 am and took a British Airways flight out of Heathrow.

No one in the team could bring himself to ask Sachin when he intended to return. ?It was not the time. We will wait for him to reach home and then speak about it. Of course, we hope it will be soon,? Gaekwad said.

Raj Singh Dungarpur, president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, said at Leicester the decision of when to return would be left to Sachin. ?He can come only when he thinks it is right for him to come. Nobody had the guts or the indecency to ask him when he will come,? Dungarpur said.

Calling him ?very special ? as a player, as a human being,? Dungarpur said Sachin was worried about his mother.

The team manager hoped Sachin would be back for India?s match against Sri Lanka. India next play Kenya at Bristol on Sunday and then go on to clash with world champions Lanka on May 26 and hosts England on May 29. But after today?s loss to Zimbabwe, there may not be any need for Sachin to return.

The team was told of Sachin?s bereavement in the morning. India and Zimbabwe lined up before the match and observed a minute of silence as a mark of respect for Sachin?s father. The full house at Grace Road also joined in.

Fans who rushed to the Tendulkars? Sahitya Sahwas housing colony in Mumbai were greeted by a board draped in black cloth. ?Ramesh Tendulkar has died. His body has been kept in the morgue. Nobody is allowed to visit the family. This is a request.? Policemen posted outside saw to it that the request was honoured.

Several friends of Sachin and of his brothers sat in groups in the compound of the building. One of them helped take the body to the morgue around 5.15 this morning.

Outside the compound, a board bigger than the one at the gates with a tiger?s head emblazoned in colour, said: ?Hindustan?s cricket kasautiveer Sachin Tendulkar?s father Ramesh Tendulkar has died.? The Tendulkars? housing colony is hardly a stone?s throw from another famous house of Bandra, Bal Thackeray?s Matoshri.

Ramesh Tendulkar, who had returned from Pune last night, suffered a stroke after midnight. His daughter Savita was with him till 11 pm after which she left for her in-laws? house.

Eminent historian Y.P. Phadke, an old friend of the Tendulkar family, remembered Ramesh Tendulkar as a poet and respected critic. ?He was an unassuming man. Maybe Sachin has inherited his unassuming nature from his father,? Phadke said.

Vijaya Rajadhyaksh, a Sahitya Academy winner, recalled: ?This (Sachin?s father?s home) was the only house in the society that would not watch Sachin playing. Probably the tension was too much for him.?    

New Delhi, May 19 
?Mr Clean? Manmohan Singh?s name is doing the rounds as a possible successor to Sonia Gandhi, who continues to spurn demands for her return with greater adamance.

Though most top Congressmen, whose stated position is that she should come back, are still shy of any open talk about a successor, members have begun to feel that they cannot remain headless and that Singh is the likeliest consensus man. Singh himself is correctly reluctant but colleagues feel he will step in if directed to do so by Sonia Gandhi.

Indications are that Sonia Gandhi may break her silence on May 21 during a party function to mark the eighth death anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi. She is likely to address party workers not as Congress chief but as an ?ordinary? member.

Partymen have some comfort in signals from 10 Janpath that Sonia Gandhi is still willing to provide ?support? to the Congress on issues concerning her succession and the election campaign that is to begin. ?She would not break the historic and emotional link between the Nehru-Gandhi parivar and the Congress,? a party leader said.

Some leaders who have met her in the past 48 hours said she told them that it was not a matter of only three CWC members raising the issue of foreign origin.

?There are many more (raising this issue) and I do not want to come in the way of the interests of the party and the country,? she is believed to have said.

After the initial shock of her resignation, Congressmen are getting ready to face the stark reality of life without Sonia Gandhi. For a majority of party leaders, it is an absolutely new, hazardous and utterly avoidable scenario. ?It is a paradoxical situation. While almost the entire CWC is waking up to the idea of a Sonia Gandhi-less Congress, nobody is willing to even talk about it. If anyone so much as mentions the succession issue, it would be seen as a great act of treachery or blasphemy,? a senior leader said.

He added that party leaders would do ?anything and everything? to persuade Sonia Gandhi to stay in office but if that does not happen, the party would turn to her to name her successor.

?She has a great responsibility to discharge. Even if she does not agree to lead the party, she will have to guide us on how to keep the BJP at bay. We will have to use her name and photographs in the poll campaign,? a party functionary said.

Singh?s name is being mentioned as he has a good public image and is a Sonia Gandhi loyalist. ?The Congress may still click as the BJP would now be deprived of its favourite target, Sonia Gandhi. Then there will be a big sympathy factor on account of the unprecedented sacrifice made by her,? a party MP in the dissolved Lok Sabha said.

Party leaders, not wishing to be named, said they would like to avoid any debate or tussle over succession as it would harm the party. ?The best way would be for Sonia Gandhi to name somebody,? a leader from Haryana said.    

Lucknow, May 19 
One of the key figures in the ongoing political drama in Uttar Pradesh, Kusum Rai, resigned as chairperson of the Uttar Pradesh Social Welfare Advisory Board late tonight. A councillor, Rai had been nicknamed ?Lady chief minister? by Kalyan Singh?s detractors.

Rai?s decision to suddenly send her resignation to all-India president of the social advisory board Mridula Sinha and minister of state for human resources development Uma Bharti caught everyone by surprise. She had so far refused to step down even in the wake of intense pressure from Kalyan?s opponents.

BJP general secretary K.N. Govindacharya has unsuccessfully tried to persuade Rai to quit during his visit here last week. Govindacharya in his report to the party president, submitted on Tuesday, clearly mentioned Rai?s refusal to step down. He also said her influence in the state government was one of the primary reasons behind the mess in Uttar Pradesh.

The report, according to party sources, has fixed responsibility of the party?s deterioration in Uttar Pradesh solely on Kalyan. The complaints against the chief minister?s style of functioning, made by 36 MLAs during their marathon five-hour session with Govindacharya, have been liberally quoted.

Kalyan has, however, demanded his pound of flesh. He has asked the party central leadership to request Lalji Tandon, the main force behind dissident activity in the state, to step down.

In addition, Kalyan is reported to have asked for disciplinary action against three key rebels ? former minister Devendra Singh Bhole and legislators Rajesh Pandey and Tanvir Hyder Osmani.

Tandon, however, said no such demand would be entertained. He also categorically ruled out his own resignation to his close aides.

Rai in her three-page resignation letter said: ?I did not want to be a tool in the petty politics of the Uttar Pradesh BJP. The main target of certain individuals is Kalyan and I have only been made a pawn. It is unfortunate.?

Rai also blamed the media for launching a slanderous campaign against her. Rai had held her post, which gave her the rank of minister of state, for only 43 days.

The dissidents view Rai?s resignation as a major victory. However, the flip side to this is the party high command will not immediately think of replacing Kalyan.

Spokesman for the rebels, Rajesh Pandey, said: ?The resignation of Rai was not our demand at all. The main demand that the chief minister goes still stands.?

Kalyan has also demanded that another dissident and his second-in-command in the Cabinet, Kalraj Mishra, be shifted to an insignificant post.

Mishra had accused the chief minister of ordering police surveillance of his residence. Despite Kalyan?s claims that Mishra would deny the report, the minister has stuck to his stand. He further said: ?I was informed that an officer of DIG rank came to my premises for an inspection, and that too, at midnight.?

Rai?s resignation might be a major climbdown for the chief minister, but a patch-up still seems distant.

A senior member of the BJP state executive, whose name was cleared by the RSS to succeed Kalyan before the Jayalalitha crisis erupted in Delhi, said: ?He has a mistaken belief that without him, the state BJP campaign would not take off. The ground realities are completely different. Opinion polls have indicated that Kalyan?s continuation would cause a further erosion of BJP support.?    

Today?s forecast: Partly cloudy sky with one or two shower or thunder shower towards afternoon. Not much change in day temperature.
Temperature: Maximum 35.2 (1?C below normal)
Minimum 26.3?C (1?C below normal)
Relative humidity: Maximum 92% Minimum 49%
Rainfall: 0.7 mm
Sunset: 6.09 pm Sunrise: 4.57 am    

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