NATIONAL

Cong. not to join Ministry

NEW DELHI SEPT. 6. The Congress tonight conveyed its decision not to join the Mulayam Singh Government in Uttar Pradesh "for the time being" which faces a crucial vote of confidence in the Assembly on September 8.

The party's decision was conveyed by Ahmed Patel, political secretary to the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, and Nawal Kishore Sharma, AICC general secretary in-charge of the party's affairs in the State, to Mr. Yadav. Announcing this, Ambika Soni, AICC general secretary, said tonight that the Congress' decision was in response to a call from Mr. Yadav on the issue.

Ms. Soni said that Mr. Yadav was likely to meet Ms. Gandhi after the vote of confidence and discuss issues such as setting up of a coordination committee and a possible common minimum programme. It appears that the Congress has not closed the issue of joining the Government at a future date. Earlier in the day, Ms. Gandhi told news correspondents that the party was watching the situation in U.P. which was "still very fluid". In an informal interaction at Damdama in Haryana this morning, she said the Congress was yet to make up its mind in what form it would actually support the Mulayam Singh Government.

Ms. Gandhi said the party's decision to support Mr. Yadav was the first step carrying forward the Congress' strategy articulated at the Shimla conclave. She reiterated that the party was willing to work with other secular parties to defeat communal forces in the country.

Ms. Gandhi, who arrived in Damdama on her way to Rajasthan, visited the Balloonport set up by the former Congress MP, Vishwa Bandhu Gupta. Mr. Gupta apprised Ms. Gandhi of his new project of Friendship Hot Air Balloon. She also inaugurated a mobile hospital project through which Mr. Gupta plans to extend the healthcare facility at the doorsteps of rural people in the area. A majority of the 16 Congress MLAs from Uttar Pradesh have been advocating that the party should join the Mulayam Singh Yadav Government, on the ground that the move would make the party's support efficacious.But the UPCC leaders including the PCC chief, Jagdambika Pal, and the CLP leader, Pramod Tewari, maintain that the party MLAs would abide by any decision of Ms. Gandhi.

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