NATIONAL

Congress underplays Sharief's letter

NEW DELHI JAN. 3. The AICC leadership today sought to underplay the letter written by the senior party leader from Karnataka, C. K. Jaffer Sharief. Acknowledging the letter, the AICC general secretary in-charge of Karnataka, Vyalar Ravi, today said that Mr. Sharief was entitled to write to the party president, Sonia Gandhi. "As a senior leader of the party, there is no harm if he writes to the Congress president," Mr. Ravi said.

The strategy obviously is to allow things to cool down. Mr. Sharief is reportedly to have taken exception to the functioning of the Karnataka Government and also referred to the party's poor showing in Gujarat. Mr. Sharief had called on Ms. Gandhi and Mr. Ravi during his last visit here 10 days ago and apprised them of his thinking on the issues that he has raised in his letter.

Mr. Sharief is said to have impressed upon the AICC leadership to keep in mind the "lower castes" while appointing the PCC chief in Karnataka. He was also in favour of his son-in-law being made a Minister in the Krishna Government.

He was given a "sympathetic hearing'' with an assurance that he would be consulted when the time came to make these changes.

The high command has given Mr. Sharief a wide berth. Last month, Ms. Gandhi went to Bangalore to inaugurate an engineering college named after his son.

His views will continue to get weightage.

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