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Pawar's role under cloud over Bihar - The Times of India

Vijay Simha ()
October 7, 1998

Title: Pawar's role under cloud over Bihar
Author: Vijay Simha
Publication: The Times of India
Date: October 7, 1998

The rumblings in the Congress haven't ceased over its handling
of the recent Bihar crisis with party president Sonia Gandhi
having to do some damage control following the dissent voiced by
some Congressmen on the support to Laloo Yadav.

Two days ago, former minister S S Ahluwalia dashed off a letter
of protest to Sonia and today Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee
head Sadanand Singh and his predecessor Sarfaraz Ahmed too are
believed to have angry letters to Sonia. Former Congress
president Sitaram Kesri also got into the act and spent 30
minutes in 10, Janpath in what is being seen as an attempt to
save his followers from Sonia's wrath.

Apparently, the Sonia camp is now turning the heat on Kesri's
confidant and Congress Working Committee member Tariq Anwar for
"misleading" her on the Bihar issue by plugging hard for Laloo.
Anwar was named in Ahluwalia's letter which blamed the CWC
member for toeing the Laloo line against the interests of the

Quick discussions were the order of the day in 10, Janpath with
Sonia taking a leading role in trying to contain the mess
created by Ahluwalia's questioning the motives of some top
Congress leaders close to Laloo.

The role of Congress Lok Sabha leader Sharad Pawar is also being
questioned in the entire episode. Sensing that Anwar could be in
trouble, Kesri is understood to have rushed to 10, Janpath at 1
p.m. to plead Anwar's case.

The whole issue has now taken on a murky overtone with
accusations and counter allegations flying in the party.

After Ahluwalia's letter, some anger was being aired in the
Sonia camp that the party president was being unfairly targetted
for what was a joint CWC decision to oppose President's Rule in

But things apparently aren't that simple. Soon after the BJP
government decided to recommend President's Rule in Bihar, Laloo
Yadav is understood to have got in touch with Kesri and Pawar
seeking the Congress' support. Kesri anyway is pro-Laloo and he
in turn is understood to have contacted Pawar to lobby for

After this round of talks, Pawar and Tariq Anwar are believed to
have called on Sonia and stressed that the Congress must side
with Laloo and not be seen on the BJP's side.

This view gained in the party's top circles and Sonia is
reported to have cleared the support to Laloo in the end.

The party's Bihar unit too was divided into two camps and they
voted accordingly on the confidence motion moved by Rabri Devi.

Ale party's pro-Jharkhand line also got buried in the Congress
support to the Rabri Devi government. This too is causing
concern in the Congress with some leaders wondering how to now
tackle the Jharkhand unit.

What Ahluwalia has thus done is raise some disturbing questions
for the Congress. Since Sonia is still in the process of
learning the ropes, a section of Congress believes she could be

In the past she had nominated losing Lok Sabha candidates for
the Rajya Sabha and CWC member Jitendra Prasada paid for it
later. He was sacked as party vice-president and his objections
were overruled when Sonia appointed Salman Khurshid as UPCC

Heads could now roll over the Bihar episode, some party leaders

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