Debating India

Confusion outside 10 Janpath

Tuesday 18 May 2004

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, MAY 18. Confusion reigned supreme outside 10 Janpath for the greater part of the day today as soon as word got out that the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, had decided not to don the mantle of Prime Minister. And today, the crowds - which have become a permanent fixture since last Thursday on the stretch of Akbar Road that houses both Ms. Gandhi’s residence and the party headquarters - were not alone in being clueless about what was going on inside.

Party leaders were equally in the dark as they rushed to the fortified residence of Ms. Gandhi to "plead with her to change her mind", only to return without an audience. For once, Congress leaders Salman Khursheed, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Jayanti Natarajan and Ashwani Kumar - who would otherwise drive into the premises - had to queue up, and coax and cajole the security personnel to allow them in.

The senior leader, Manmohan Singh - who, television networks claimed, was tipped to be the anointed one - had to face the ire of the crowd as he tried to drive in to 10 Janpath from the Akbar Road side. Seeing him seated inside the car, the agitated crowd sought to attack his vehicle and broke the lights before his driver managed to beat a hasty retreat.

Besides the Congress leaders - who made a beeline for 10 Janpath as it became clear that Ms. Gandhi was unlikely to relent - some leaders of the party’s pre-poll allies also arrived. First to reach was the leader of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti, K. Chandrashekar Rao, followed by the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader, Shibu Soren. As the designated hour for the Congress Parliamentary Party drew near, the Rashtriya Janata Dal president, Laloo Prasad Yadav, arrived.

While Mr. Rao and Mr. Soren managed to make their way through the crowd practically unnoticed, Mr. Laloo Yadav was immediately mobbed. The crowd urged him to persuade Ms. Gandhi to rethink on the issue.

He was allowed to proceed inside only after giving them an assurance of carrying to her their message that the people’s mandate was in her favour and that she should not let the `nefarious designs’ of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the National Democratic Alliance prevail.

See online : The Hindu

P.S.

in The Hindu, Tuesday, May 18, 2004.

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