Tuesday, Oct 14, 2003
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By Our Special Correspondent
The Congress central leadership emphasised here today that the "ultimatum" of the Maharashtra Congress chief, Ranjit Deshmukh, to the NCP leader, Sharad Pawar, "was an expression of anger and anguish" of their party workers triggered by the "unwarranted'' remarks of Mr. Pawar, over the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin.
The party asserted that it did not wish to vacate the political space in Maharashtra for the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena combine and it was up to the NCP to make its stand clear on this aspect.
"The NCP has to clear its stand what it wants, their commitment to keep the communal forces away. We have shown patience because we do not want to give these forces an upper hand," the AICC general secretary, Ambika Soni, told correspondents here.
Ms. Soni said the AICC rejoinder to Mr. Pawar's charge that the Congress was "working in tandem" with the BJP was issued by the chief spokesperson, S. Jaipal Reddy, on Saturday. The AICC had countered it by pointing out that the NCP did not take part in the debate in the Lok Sabha on the no-confidence motion moved by Ms. Gandhi against the Vajpayee Government and other issues.
Expressing similar views, the Congress general secretary, Vayalar Ravi, in-charge of the party's affairs in the State, said that in a coalition, the constituents had to exercise restraint. The Pradesh Congress chief had the freedom to express views on State issues within certain parameters. The party indicated its willingness to ignore the foreign origin issue for the present.
The AICC stand came even as Mr. Deshmukh sought to deny that he had issued an ultimatum to the NCP in Mumbai on Saturday. "What I had talked about was that Mr. Pawar speaks one thing in Maharashtra and another outside. So he should clarify and we will consider...", he told correspondents here today.
Congress sources suggest that Mr. Deshmukh who was summoned here has exceeded his brief by issuing the threat. However, central party leaders dismissed speculation that his resignation was sought or that the idea of changing the party leadership in the State was in the realm of consideration.
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