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May 12, 2013 at 03:38pm IST

No rift between PM, Sonia Gandhi, says Congress

New Delhi: Days after two Union Ministers were sacked, there were reports of a feud between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. But the Congress on Sunday downplayed that and said that there is no rift. The party has rubbished all reports that the Prime Minister has been isolated.

Senior Congress leader Janardhan Dwivedi on Sunday reiterated that the resignations of Pawan Kumar Bansal and Ashwani Kumar were a joint decision of both Manmohan and Sonia. Earlier, the Congress gave full credit to the UPA chairperson for the resignations. "Dropping of the two ministers was joint decision of PM Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi," said Dwivedi.

Sources say the party is upset with the Prime Minister's strong defence of Ashwani even as the BJP has upped the ante demanding his resignation.

The Congress, meanwhile, is mulling a complete facelift by way of a reshuffle even as Manmohan is left in a vulnerable spot. The Congress core group is meeting on Sunday evening ahead of the reshuffle.

Within hours of the former law minister's resignation, BJP targeted the PM, raising the worry that if the SC gives adverse comments in July, it's the PM who stands directly in the line of fire. BJP President Rajnath Singh pressed for the PM's resignation, asking, "Who gave the orders (to Ashwani Kumar) for meeting the CBI director?"

The Prime Minister has chosen Kapil Sibal as the new Law Minister, whose biggest challenge would be to provide a shield to him, similar to what he did as Telecom Minister during the 2G case.

The Prime Minister insisted that no rule was broken and that the court had said nothing against the government. In fact, a statement prepared by the PM after the resignation of Ashwani defended him, differentiating his case from Bansal's. This statement, however, was not released, raising further doubts that all is not well.

And even as the PM appears increasingly isolated, the Congress is mulling a complete facelift by way of a reshuffle. Stress will again be on new faces with little baggage, but options for the Congress are few and time is running out.

Citing the reports, BJP leader LK Advani took a dig at the Prime Minister, saying he should now call it a day as he appeared to have "abdicated" his right to decide on his Cabinet. "Has the Prime Minister abdicated his right even to decide about his own Cabinet? Today's news reports about the removal of two Union Ministers generally emphasise that, it is Soniaji who has sacked 'two PM's men'.

The reports had it that in a meeting with the Prime Minister, Sonia was understood to have conveyed the party's unease over the public perception against the government for not acting against Bansal and Ashwani, who held the Railway and Law Ministry portfolios respectively.

With Additional Inputs from PTI