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Shahabuddin joins Congress

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, APRIL 4. Three-time Member of Parliament and former diplomat, Syed Shahabuddin, today joined the Congress, saying that ``no responsible citizen of the country can afford to remain in exile from politics at this juncture''.

Though his joining the Congress has been in the air for a while now, the announcement was made this afternoon after Mr. Shahabuddin met the party president, Sonia Gandhi, earlier in the day.

Giving reasons for joining the Congress, Mr. Shahabuddin said: ``it is not just the biggest secular party, but also an instrument through which the lost idea of India (which the founding fathers had envisaged for the new nation) can be restored.''

Categorical in stating that he would not contest the general elections, he, however, clarified, ``if the party wants me to contest, I will.''

About his criticism of the former Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, for allowing the Babri Masjid to be demolished, Mr. Shahabuddin was of the view that by-gones should be by-gones.

``I do not want to dwell on the past. The Congress position on the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue is the same as mine that all concerned ought to wait for and abide by the judicial verdict.''

A member of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board and convener of the Babri Masjid Coordination Committee, Mr. Shahabuddin resigned from the Indian Foreign Service in 1978 to join politics and was first associated with the Janata Party and later the Janata Dal. He has had two stints in the Lok Sabha — representing Kishanganj in Bihar (the lone Muslim-majority constituency in North India) — and one term in the Rajya Sabha.

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