SITARAM KESRI knows his list of priorities well and, unlike his predecessor, knows how to act on them. Within a week of his takeover as party president on September 23, he asked his trusted trioGhulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel and Tariq Anwarto do the necessary groundwork for the return of Madhavrao Scindia to the Congress.
On November 5, Kesri welcomed the former Gwalior Maharaja back in the party. This was barely a day after he got CWC backing for his plan to invite old Congress members back. And exactly seven months after Scindia "stood expelled" from the Congress for having filed nomination papers for Parliament as a Madhya Pradesh Vikas Party candidate.
Said a satisfied Kesri: "This is the reunion of two brothers separated for a short while". The political message, of course, went far deeper. Kesri has implied that Nara-simha Raos actionsin selecting targets for trial in the hawala case, Scindia being one such victimwere motivated. The prominence and alacrity accorded to Scindias case signals that Raos likes and dislikes matter no more in the party. It was also a mild warning to the United Front Government of the possible shape of things to come. For, Scindias breakaway party was a Front constituent. There are other ex-Congress entities in the UF who are potential homecomers, and their movement could rock the Gowda dispensation more violently.
When Kesris nominated trio first established contact with Scindia in early October, he was adamant that he wouldnt come back so long as Rao was CPP leader. But he was soon coaxed into changing his mind. The line that worked was that Raos stint as CPP leader was nearing its end, and it would be more fruitful for Scindia to do his bit to hasten the process as a party-man at the November 21 CPP meeting.
On the afternoon of reunion day, Scindia had a final talk with Kesri at his 7-AB Purana Qila Road residence. Kesri counselled against delay, saying "the party belongs to you more than Rao". Scindia saw sense in that and the two promptly proceeded for the AICC headquarters on 24 Akbar Road to break the good news at the 4 oclock press briefing. "I would not like to go into the design behind my trial. I reacted to protect my self-respect. Ive rejoined the party, along with all those with me, under Kesris leadership," Scindia said. Kesri smiled and nodded his head in affirmation. Rao, clearly, was already persona non grata. "This party belongs to youths. We will get back all those who can contribute to the party," Kesri said. Scindias re-entry, he pointed out, is more significant than his outfits numerical strength would suggest. Firstly, the seven-times Lok Sabha member is a strong anti-BJP voice. In Parliament, he has called it a "traitors party" and such rhetoric has carried conviction because of a personal twisthis mother and sister are both BJP MPs. Scindia, say Congress sources, would be a worthy gun in the partys armoury when it confronts the BJP to reclaim its natural leadership credentials.