To field Tytler or not - Congress leaders do a rethink

April 8th, 2009 - 4:54 pm ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram New Delhi, April 8 (IANS) With the 1984 anti-Sikh riots back in the headlines just a week before general elections begin, a sense of disquiet gripped the Congress Wednesday with many leaders favouring a rethink on whether or not to field tainted candidates Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar.
A day after a Sikh journalist hurled a shoe at union Home Minister P. Chidambaram over the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) clean chit to Tytler, the Congress said it would wait for the Supreme Court decision on the matter.

Party insiders said the final call on whether to go ahead with Tytler or not would be taken by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, expected to return from a campaign tour in the night.

But privately, the debate raged. Most said Sajjan Kumar and Tytler, accused of involvement in the riots, should be withdrawn from the election process while some said they would wait for the apex court’s verdict.

Everybody felt the 1984 riots, in which 3,000 people had been killed following the assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, had become an election issue that needed to be dealt with.

“Something will have to be done because this has now become an election issue,” a senior Congress leader, also contesting the polls, told IANS on condition of anonymity.

Another candidate from one of Delhi’s seven seats said replacements for both would also have to be found before dropping them.

That the issue continued to spiral Wednesday, with train traffic in Punjab disrupted by Sikh protestor who blocked tracks - as well as roads - in several places, added to the sense of unease.

Officially, however, the party maintained a no comment stand.

Party spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan told television channels that she could not comment anything more than the Congress’ Tuesday stance that it would “wait (for the apex court’s decision) and see”.

She said: “At this point of time, I would like to confine myself to this.”

Amid widespread speculation that he may be dropped as a candidate from the North-East Delhi constituency, Tytler told reporters that the party was “supreme”. He was asked if he would withdraw from the polls. He refused to make any more comments.

Attempting to control the damage, senior party leader Vayalar Ravi said the Congress was not against the Sikh community and considered it a “patriotic community which fought for the freedom (of the country) and national integrity”.

“The decision to appoint Manmohan Singh as prime minister shows how the Congress loves the community,” Ravi told IANS over telephone from Coimbatore.

“It is unfortunate that some elements in the Hindutva forces are using Akali Dal for political purposes though the Congress (had) apologised” for the anti-Sikh riots of 1984.

On Tuesday, Sikh journalist Jarnail Singh of the Hindi daily Dainik Jagran tossed the issue on the front pages of newspapers when he flung a shoe towards Chidambaram at a press conference.

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