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Anti-Sonia lobby fires first missiles on Bihar - The Indian Express

Express News Service ()
October 6, 1998

Title: Anti-Sonia lobby fires first missiles on Bihar
Author: Express News Service
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: October 6, 1998

Former Congress minister S S Ahluwalia's letter to party
president Sonia Gandhi, criticising the line adopted in favour
of Laloo Yadav in the recent Bihar crisis, is being seen in
party circles as the first step of a possible anti-Sonia
grouping which could time its attack when the November assembly
poll results are out.

Ahluwalia, who began as a Rajiv Gandhi loyalist, had switched
camps to the P V Narasimha Rao group when Rao made him a
minister towards the end of his five-year term. Along with
Matang Singh, Ahluwalia was seen as Rao's followers and was a
vocal member of the group. He was also a leading fight of what
was called the Congress "shouting brigade" in the Rajya Sabha,
jumping to Rao's defence when under attack from the Opposition.

But after he ceased being a member of the Upper House, Ahluwalia
is believed to have been weighing his options in the Congress
following Rao's sidelining. He has also largely kept away from
the Sonia group even after she took over the party presidency.

His missive to her is thus being interpreted as a part of the
anti-Sonia lobby's strategy. This lobby, with members from the
Rao and Sitaram Kesri groups, has been chafing after Sonia
became Congress head. Speculation is also rife that Ahluwalia's
pro-Bharatiya Janata Party line on the imposition of Article 356
in Bihar could be a pointer of his future moves.

However, the Congress itself was divided on what line to take
when the BJP decided to recommend imposition of President's Rule
in Bihar citing bad governance. The Bihar Congress unit was
split into two groups, pro and anti-Laloo and it was after a
debate in the Congress Woking Committee that the party chose to
oppose President's Rule in Bihar.

Interestingly, the Congress merely repeated that Article 356
should not be misused, even saying that governance in
Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Rajasthan, all BJP-ruled
states, was worse than in Bihar. But at no stage did the
Congress say anything in favour of the RJD's rule in Bihar. It
was an indication of how the party would have liked Laloo to be
in trouble but didn't want to be seen on the BJP's side.

The Congress feels that Laloo and Mulayam Singh Yadav have
occupied the secular, anti-BJP political space m Bihar and Uttar
Pradesh thus thwarting a Congress revival in the two states. The
recent Pachmarhi brainstorming camp felt as much. So, Ahluwalia
has cleverly used Pachmarhi as an alibi for his criticism of
Sonia while opening up an anti-Sonia line in the party.

Essentially, he said Sonia shouldn't have opposed imposition of
President's Rule in Bihar so that people of Bihar would be
relieved of the "corrupt and oppressive regime of Laloo Prasad
Yadav." He feels it was a wrong policy and showed the Congress
had "forgotten its moral and constitutional responsibilities."

The Congress line on Bihar negated the party's Pachmari
Declaration and the code of conduct for the party's workers and
leaders, Ahluwalia wrote. The five-page letter also asks how the
Congress could back the Bihar Government knowing "fully well
that Laloo Yadav was chargesheeted in the fodder, dhoti and
other cases."

Ahluwalia said he wasn't alone in his views on the subject and
had the backing of "many senior" leaders in the party who also
felt the Congress should avoid short-term gains by aligning with
the CPM, RJD, SP and others "ignoring the sentiments of
grassroot workers of the party."

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