Cong. shelves probe into cross-voting?

NEW DELHI, MAY 7. The Congress(I) appears to have shelved its inquiry into the largescale cross-voting by its West Bengal MLAs in the recent Rajya Sabha elections, leading to the defeat of the party candidate. Though the three-member ``probe team'' was set up nearly three weeks ago and asked to submit its report within 15 days of arriving in West Bengal, its members have not yet gone to the State.

According to reliable sources, the team, comprising Mr. R.K. Dhawan, Mr. Kamal Nath and Mr. Vayalar Ravi, had been asked by the AICC(I) general secretary in charge of West Bengal, Mrs. Prabha Rau, not to go to Calcutta until she gave them the green signal.

The Congress(I) High Command is said to be veering around to the idea of putting up a candidate in next month's by- election to the Panskura Lok Sabha seat even though the State unit was in favour of supporting the Trinamool Congress candidate, who is backed by the BJP - a dry run of the ``mahajot'' (grand alliance) touted for the Assembly elections next year. Last night, the WBPCC(I) chief, Mr A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chaudhary, told presspersons that it would be ``unwise'' to put up a candidate as the party did not have a good organisational network there.

But the thinking among the party's central leaders is that it is incumbent on the Congress(I) to field a candidate to make clear its stand against any direct or indirect understanding with the BJP. Though the party's chances in Panskura are dim, it is important to take a stand. The last date for filing nominations is May 9.

Since this decision is likely to displease leaders such as Mr. Chaudhary and his predecessor, Mr. Somen Mitra - strong proponents of ``mahajot'' - the High Command is soft- pedalling the probe, which has also been opposed by the State leaders. When the inquiry committee was announced, Mr. Chaudhary had said that if any action were to be taken, it should be taken against him.