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’Anguished’ Sonia springs a surprise

Friday 24 March 2006

Special Correspondent

Quits as MP and as National Advisory Council chairperson, will contest again from Rae Bareli

It was the right thing to do: Sonia Plans to contest from Rae Bareilly again Speaker accepts her resignation

NEW DELHI: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday resigned from the 14th Lok Sabha and as chairperson of the National Advisory Council (NAC). She made the announcement at a press conference.

Only on Wednesday, the Opposition criticised the United Progressive Alliance Government for abruptly adjourning the budget session of Parliament, saying the move was aimed at enabling the Government to promulgate an ordinance to amend the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1959.

This, the Opposition said, was to save Ms. Gandhi from losing her Lok Sabha seat on the ground that as NAC chairperson she was holding an "office of profit." The Samajwadi Party also protested against the move.

Several political parties had complained to the President that Ms. Gandhi and several other Members of Parliament held offices of profit, which cost the Samajwadi Party’s Jaya Bachchan her Rajya Sabha seat recently.

After holding talks with senior leaders, Ms. Gandhi stepped out of her study in 10 Janpath and announced that she was anguished over attempts by some persons to create an atmosphere that the Government and Parliament were being used for her benefit.

To protect values

Ms. Gandhi said she did not step into political and public life for personal gains. It was only to serve the country, society and protect secular values. Keeping in view her values of public life, ideals of politics and beliefs, she had tendered her resignation.

She, however, expressed the confidence that people of her Rae Bareli constituency and the country would understand her sentiments.

To a question, Ms. Gandhi said she decided to resign, as it was "the right thing to do."

Asked if she planned to contest again, Ms. Gandhi declared that she would do so from Rae Bareli.

Prior to her announcement, Ms. Gandhi informed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about her decision. Dr. Singh arrived at her residence and left before the announcement.

Senior party leaders, including Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister Shivraj Patil, AICC general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi and her political secretary Ahmed Patel, were present. Rahul Gandhi was around when Ms. Gandhi announced her decision.

Congress, BJP claims

The development turned the course of political discourse, with the Congress asserting that Ms. Gandhi had proved that she was above considerations of office, and the Bharatiya Janata Party describing it as a step that followed its intense pressure.

Later, Ms. Gandhi called on Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and handed over her resignation letter. It was accepted with immediate effect, the Speaker’s office said.

On a complaint that Mr. Chatterjee was holding an office of profit, his office said it was the Speaker’s considered opinion that he was not holding any office of profit.

Manmohan accepts resignation

A PTI report said Dr. Singh had accepted Ms. Gandhi’s resignation as National Advisory Council chairperson.

See online : The Hindu

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