Sitaram Kesri's exit gains attention: Here's what happened years ago
In a rally in Chhattisgarh on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about the ouster of Sitaram Kesri from Congress in 1998, to prove the grand old party is loyal only to the members of Gandhi family. His words served as a reminder of a bitter episode in Indian politics, though many slammed him for bringing up the past. But what exactly happened years ago? We tell you.
After Rajiv Gandhi's death, Congress won a majority
In 1991, after Rajiv Gandhi's death, the Congress won a majority in the elections, but not a complete one. Notably, Sonia Gandhi had refused to campaign then. The PV Narasimha Rao government was voted out of power in 1996. In the election, the BJP got 161 seats, but Congress 140. In 1997, Sonia announced she would campaign for the elections, due in March 1998.
Back then Sitaram Kesri was the party chief
Sitaram Kesri was the chief of the party then and had welcomed the decision of Sonia to join the party. Interestingly, he called her a 'savior'. There were talks in the party that Kesri should resign but he wanted to hold on to the position. On March 14, 1998, Congress Working Committee passed a resolution asking Kesri to resign.
Kesri's dhoti was pulled after a meeting he called 'unconstitutional'
But the transfer of power was bloody. It's reported that Kesri was locked inside a room to ensure he doesn't create obstacles while Sonia entered the establishment. The meeting at Congress headquarters in 24, Akbar Road was termed unconstitutional by Kesri. As he was storming out, few 'loyalists' heckled him and pulled his dhoti. Soon the nameplate read: Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
Congress didn't treat the last outsider well
It should be noted that Kesri was the last outsider to have held the position of Congress' President. He was succeeded by Sonia Gandhi and then Rahul Gandhi became the President, unopposed. Referring to the bitter incident about Kesri's ouster, PM Modi said, "He was thrown out of office and to the footpath to make way for Sonia Gandhi as the new party chief."
Kesri's aide slams PM Modi for calling him Dalit
Notably, PM Modi called Kesri a Dalit leader and Congress shot back. Party leader Tariq Anwar, who was close to Kesri, said, "PM is again wrong as Kesri ji was not a Dalit, he belonged to 'Vaishya' community." He added Kesri willingly gave his position to Sonia Gandhi and rather questioned PM Modi's treatment of senior BJP leaders like LK Advani and MM Joshi.