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Sonia prods Cong on to front foot - The Economic Times

Political Bureau ()
March 4, 1998

Title: Sonia prods Cong on to front foot
Author: Political Bureau
Publication: The Economic Times
Date: March 4, 1998

A turnaround in the Congress party's stand coincided with the
hasty summoning of party spokespersons, Mr Gulam Nabi Azad and Ms
Ambika Soni to 10 Janpath in the morning.

In fact, the exit of joint secretary Jairam Ramesh from a panel
discussion on a television network, where moments earlier he had
just conceded defeat for the Congress, followed intervention from
10 Janpath. Jairam Ramesh was reportedly asked to discontinue
voicing his embarrassing opinion in the live debate where he gone
to the extent of stating that any move to prevent the BJP from
forming their government, since they were touching the 250-mark,
would be immoral and unconstitutional.

Mr Azad, in fact, sought to disclaim Jairam's views saying they
were purely his 'personal views'. He stated that the BJP and its
allies, even after giving the go by to all the principles of anti-
corruption and other issues which it expounded, and after allying
with 17 different parties, had failed to reach the figure of 250.
"In the political battle between the BJP and the non-BJP parties,
the latter has won. It means that the electorate has preferred
the secular forces" Mr Azad said.

The central role played by 10 Janpath was only made clear by the
fact that an informal meeting Of the CWC met at party president
Sitaram Kesri's house subsequently after Mr Azad's meeting with
Ms Gandhi. Mr Kesri too called on Ms Gandhi and spent about 15
minutes with her.

Appearing more comfortable than yesterday, Mr Kesri said, "We
will try to form the government. At the moment we are talking to
like-minded persons, that's all I can say at the moment."

Party circles indicated that an effort was on to secure letters
of support from all the constituents of the United Front, the one-
man parties and the independents for a Congress-led government at
the Centre to be given to President K R Narayanan after
notification was issued by him. CPI(M) general secretary
Harkishen Surjeet was said to be playing a key role in the talks
with non-BJP parties.

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