As the date of polling for the Congress presidents post draws near, the campaign by candidates is assuming acrimonious overtones with Arjun Singh yesterday listing a string of charges against Sharad Pawar, and the latter retorting by saying: Responsible people should talk responsibly. Election for the party chiefs post is scheduled for June 9.
Acting obviously at the behest of incumbent president Sitaram Kesri, one of the candidates, Singh alleged that Pawar was a proxy candidate of senior leader P V Narasimha Rao. Singh, who did not have a good opinion of Kesri until some time back, clearly hopes to be rehabilitated in the Congress working committee by supporting Kesri at this juncture.
Singhs fulminations against Pawar yesterday afternoon were described in the evening by Pawar as an indication of nervousness in the Kesri camp. Pawar claimed to have evoked tremendous response from Congress leaders during his peregrinations in various states.
He is scheduled to visit Bhopal and Calcutta today. Pawar sought to play the role of an elder statesman by claiming that he did not take serious notice of Singhs utterances, since he (Pawar) would like to take all sections of the party along in the task of rejuvenating the party.
He said the organisational elections would not lead to a split in the party. We will never allow that, the Maharashtra leader remarked.
According to Pawar, he had been a victim of a vicious campaign by communal forces and unfortunately, several of his partymen had joined hands with such forces. Singhs attack yesterday should be seen in this light, he said.
The nature of remarks made by Singh left Pawar wondering whether it was a tussle within the Congress or between two separate parties.
Singhs charges revolve around four issues: Pawars involvement in the negotiations with the BJP, VHP and RSS leaders in 1992, alongwith the then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao; questioning Pawars alleged inactivity in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case; demanding Pawars views on the Vora committee report on the nexus between politicians, criminals and bureaucrats; and, Pawar not defending Kesri during the debate on the motion of no-confidence against the H D Deve Gowda-led United Front government.
Singh said: The real choice is whether they want to bring back the culture of conspiracy, corruption, nepotism and sycophancy which characterised the stewardship of Narasimha Rao as Congress president (who is sponsoring Sharad Pawar), and Kesri, who has decisively turned his back on the recent past and wants to create a new climate of commitments to ideals of the party.
Pawar refuted each of these points, and alleged that Singhs exertions were a calculated attempt to malign by innuendo and to confuse and mislead the delegates through distortion of facts.
Pawar wants the returning officer to furnish a list of delegates for the elections. He wondered why there was a delay in furnishing the vital list since elections to states committees were over in the thrid week of May.