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Kesri Camp Busy Keeping Support Base Intact


Smug in the belief that a majority of the 8,000-odd voters in the party presidential election were firmly with Congress president Sitaram Kesri, his key aides are said to be in constant touch with them to ensure that the main contender, Sharad Pawar, does not succeed in weaning them away during the polling on June 9.

Meanwhile, the Delhi High Court dismissed the petition filed by former MP Anadi Charan Das, challenging the election process on the ground that irregularities had taken place during election to various state committees.

In the `silent campaign offensive Kesri does not intend to tour states contact was being maintained with the voters by every means available. Several telephone lines in the Capital had been devoted exclusively for this purpose. Besides, senior leaders have been touring state capitals and meeting the newly elected delegates, including those from the districts.

Kesris confidence was evident yesterday when he said his victory was certain. Hum zameen par chalte hain, to kaise gir sakte hain (my feet and firmly in the ground, so how can I lose), he remarked.

He would not comment on the suggestion that the election could turn out to be a one-sided affair in his favour.

He was clearly unperturbed by the exertions of the two rivals, as well as, the support extended to Pawar by the P V Narasimha Rao camp and senior leader K Karunakaran yesterday.

On the other hand, aides of Pawar are said to be no less active. Sources in the Pawar camp said even if a majority of the voters were Kesris chosen men, he could not be sure of their support, given the resources that Pawar is credited with, and particularly after the visits and intense campaigning undertaken by Pawar.

The most crucial block, however, is from Uttar Pradesh about 1200-odd voters. The Pawar camp has not yet been able to make a dent in the state.

Yesterday, the spate of allegations and counter-allegations continued, albeit, with the oft-repeated statement that the election would not lead to a split in the party.

Each of the contenders claimed the election would `strengthen internal democracy in the party. Rajesh Pilot said in Bhopal that whoever was elected would be accepted as the party leader, and all would work under him.

In Bhubaneswar, Pawar appeared confident of his victory. I know the Congress culture and history, and not much should be read into some top leaders proposing the candidature of Kesri, he said.

He recalled that Indira Gandhi had proposed the name of N Sanjeeva Reddy for the post of president in 1969, but ensured the victory of V V Giri in order to strengthen the party. The same thing is going to be repeated this time, he remarked.

Pilot called upon the voters to vote according to their conscience. In a separate letter to Kesri, he suggested holding of joint meetings of the three candidates with Congress workers before the elections.

Such meeting should be held wherever possible and wherever it was not, it could be done through the visual media.

This, however, was dismissed by Kesri as some alien to the Congress tradition.

Kesri claimed that he did not undertake a tour of various states like Pawar and Pilot because there was no such tradition in the party in the event of a contest for the presidentship.

Senior leader Balram Jakhar, who toured Karnataka on behalf of Kesri, said there was a good response to Kesris candidature in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

First Published: Sat, June 07 1997. 00:00 IST