A rattled Congress today withdrew leaders Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar from the electoral fray as the ghost of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots returned to haunt the party. Not wanting to alienate the Sikhs on the eve of general elections,the Congress leadership decided to withdraw both leaders following the din over the CBI clean chit to Tytler in one of the riot cases. Tytler,the party candidate in North East Delhi,and Sajjan Kumar,contesting the South Delhi seat,were called by senior party leaders Pranab Mukherjee and Ahmed Patel and told to opt out of the race,according to Congress sources.
The party leadership has decided that Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar will not contest the Lok Sabha elections. They will work for the party. So far as their replacement is concerned,it will be decided shortly, AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi announced this evening.
This came two days after a Sikh journalist,not satisfied with the explanation on the CBI clean chit to Tytler,threw a shoe at Home Minister P Chidambaram during a press conference. The incident had a ripple effect with demonstrations across Punjab and Sikhs protesting today outside a Delhi court where the case was being heard.
Though the Congress tried to take the moral high ground by withdrawing the candidature of Tytler and Sajjan Kumar,it was evident that the decision had been forced by political exigency. Their candidature was announced on March 22, over a week before the CBI sought cancellation of the case against Tytler. In 2005,Tytler had to resign from the Union Cabinet after his indictment by the Nanavati Commission. When the Central Election Committee headed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi decided to give them tickets last month,there was no change in the facts of the case because Tytler had till then not been given a clean chit by the CBI.
Dwivedi said the decision to replace the candidates was taken because the party did not want people to have any doubts about its intentions. Asked why then were the two leaders nominated in the first place,Dwivedi said: Both are our victorious candidates. They were nominated as they won the last Lok Sabha elections. We have normally given tickets to sitting MPs.
Shortly before Dwivedis announcement,Tytler addressed a press conference stating that he did not want to embarrass the party and had left it to Sonia Gandhi to take a decision on his candidature. The media reports (of my alleged role) have damaged prospects of my party just before the elections. And at this particular time I think I should be away…I am not going to pursue my ticket with the party in this election, he told reporters.
Sajjan Kumar also left the issue of his candidature to the party high command. Because of the manner in which some parties were trying to vitiate the atmosphere,they (Tytler and Kumar) expressed such sentiments. While appreciating their sentiments,the party leadership decided that they will not contest, said Dwivedi.
Congress sources claimed there was an attempt by some political parties to re-ignite communal passions on the eve of the elections. Even the Punjab Congress had urged the party leadership to withdraw the candidature of Tytler and Kumar as it could adversely affect party prospects in the elections.