NATIONAL

Groupism has taken precedence: Arjun Singh

NEW DELHI MAY 22. A senior Congress leader, Arjun Singh, today vehemently protested his loyalty to the party president, Sonia Gandhi, and denied the insinuation that he had cast an aspersion on her leadership. "For me to even think of alleging anything about her is unimaginable,'' Mr. Singh told the media in a damage limitation exercise.

Mr. Singh, however, hinted that he was not happy with the growing groupism in the party. Groupism "has now taken precedence over party interest," he said.Many Congress leaders trace his unhappiness to the rise of Ambika Soni and his consequent "marginalisation" in the power equation.

The leadership, however, appeared to put a cap on the controversy arising out of Mr. Singh's emotional remarks on Wednesday on the challenges and problems facing the party, while participating in a commemorative meeting on Rajiv Gandhi. In fact, Mr. Singh will be flying out on Friday morning to join Ms. Gandhi and Ms. Soni on their visit to Madhya Pradesh.Talking to newspersons at a specially convened press conference, Mr. Singh made a conscious effort to clarify the remarks pertaining to Ms. Gandhi. He made the point that it would be wrong to compare Ms. Sonia Gandhi to her mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi, as the circumstances in which they took charge of the party were different.

"Everyday, people were leaving the party and we had only four State Governments, today that number has risen to fifteen," he said.

Though Mr. Singh clarified that he had not used the world "coterie'' during his speech at the commemorative function, he did reiterate the point he had made about groupism.

"This has always existed in the party, but that it should not go to the extent that it hurts the party's interests, today some of us are breaching that dividing line.'' But he quickly clarified that he was not blaming any individual.

Explaining the rationale for his remarks, Mr. Singh said there was a logical focus.

"It was made in the context of Rajivji's famous speech at the Mumbai centenary and it was meant to strengthen the party.''

The import of his speech was to emphasise the need to work unitedly and to strengthen the party.

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