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Sonia refuses to meet state Cong leaders

Party Chief Sonia Gandhi refused to meet Congress big wigs from Maharashtra, reports Dharmendra Jore.

india Updated: Feb 09, 2007 01:32 IST

After a poor show in the civic elections, the Congress big wigs from Maharashtra faced another humiliation in New Delhi.

Party Chief Sonia Gandhi refused to meet them and they returned home disappointed.

Party sources in New Delhi said Gandhi was immensely upset over party's dismal performance in the civic polls. "First she sought reports from Maharashtra and Mumbai units heads but didn't deem it fit to meet them. She is now busy campaigning in Punjab," said a source in All-India Congress Committee.

The prominent visitors to Delhi were Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee chief Prabha Rau, Maharashtra Regional Congress Committee president Gurudas Kamat and Revenue Minister Narayan Rane. The leaders were tightlipped on their Delhi sojourn.

The last among the top shots to arrive in Delhi was Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.

His Thursday evening appointment with Gandhi too was not confirmed, said sources. "I'm not sure if Soniaji will meet him today," said a leader.

Sources said Gandhi got an insight into the civic elections debacle when she invited a handful of leaders from Maharashtra for dinner three days ago.

The leaders had contributed to the success of the party-organised 'Satyagraha Conference' (based on Mahatma Gandhi's work) for foreign delegates.

"After discussing the details with us she got the impression that she had been misled on the party's chances in Maharashtra, particularly in Mumbai," said one of the state leaders who attended the dinner.

According to an internal analysis by Congress leaders in Mumbai, the party's vote share increased among the Maharashtrian voters but lost its traditional Muslim and Dalit votes.

The Samajwadi Party which got 3.76 per cent of Mumbai's votes made a dent in the party's minority votes while the Republican Party of India (Athwale faction) polled 1.62 per cent — most of which were Dalit votes. Together the parties won 10 seats.

On the other hand, the party had fielded more Maharashtrian candidates this time, that resulted in getting more votes in Mumbai's Marathi-speaking areas. Among Congress' 71 corporators elected, 31 are Maharahstrians — the number was 18 in 2002.