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'There is no crisis in the Congress'

Published : Nov 15, 1997 00:00 IST

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Last fortnight, Sitaram Kesri was in the thick of Operation Save Congress. The large-scale defection of party legislators in Lucknow to support the BJP and fears of defection in New Delhi and in Gandhinagar were his main worries. Reports about critical observations in the Jain Commission report about some United Front leaders and the fallout from their publication on the Congress added to his problems. Kesri was involved in a series of discussions with leaders including I.K. Gujral and Gujarat Chief Minister Dilip Parikh. Venkitesh Ramakrishnan met Kesri twice in the midst of the Congress president's busy schedule. Excerpts from the interview:

Is the Congress headed for a crisis? The collapse in U.P. seems to have set off a chain reaction in Gujarat and in Delhi.

There is no crisis in the Congress. The so-called chain reaction that you are talking about is merely the creation of the BJP and sections of the media that support the communal party. Those who left the party in U.P. for personal gain have been expelled. The Congress has faced challenges throughout its existence. A political force with a history of more than 112 years is capable of surviving, whatever the odds.

But even Pranab Mukherjee admits that there is a real threat of U.P. being repeated in Gujarat.

Wait and see. The Congress will come out tops in Gujarat.

It has been reported that during your discussions with Gujarat Chief Minister Dilip Parikh, a decision for Congress participation in his Ministry was taken.

Parikh has a made a proposal and we are not averse to the idea. But let the vote of confidence (on November 13) be over; a concrete picture will emerge after that.

What about New Delhi? It has been reported that some Congress leaders discussed with the BJP leadership the possibility of sections of the Congress Parliamentary Party joining hands with the BJP.

I am not aware of any such discussions. As far as I know, the CPP is united. All these reports are the creation of the pro-BJP media.

What is the state of the Congress' relationship with the U.F.? There is fear in the U.F. that the erosion of the Congress' strength may lead the Congress to withdraw its support to the Gujral Government.

As far as I can see, the support to the U.F. Government is there and it will continue. Of course, there is some disgruntlement about the consistent anti-Congress manoeuvres of certain U.F. constituents. But these sections of the U.F. can be made to mend their ways. If they do not, we will see then.

Will the Jain Commission report compel the Congress to bring down the Government?

How can I comment on a report that has not yet been officially published? Let the report be placed in Parliament. A responsible political party cannot jump to conclusions on the basis of media reports. And in any case, what is important is the Government's response to the report. Will it be ready to take corrective action with respect to the report? That is the question. The publication of the report by itself need not lead to withdrawal of support to the U.F. The issues cannot be related and mixed up that way.

(This story was published in the print edition of Frontline magazine dated Nov 15, 1997.)

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