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Speculation mounts of changes in Congress, two ministers deny quit offer

Minister for Overseas Affairs Vayalar Ravi and Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh said they had not written a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi offering to quit.

The media was abuzz with reports that at least four ministers - Ramesh, Ravi, Salman Khurshid (law) and Ghulam Nabi Azad (health) had offered to quit the government and work for the party. Another name being mentioned was that of Minister of State for Personnel V. Narayanasamy.

Ravi said he had met Gandhi in connection with Andhra Pradesh bye-elections and did not write a letter.

"I am very happy doing my work and will continue. I have been sent to different states at different times. This time I was asked to look into Andhra Pradesh for the by-polls and I went there for a few days," Ravi said.

Ramesh also said he had not written a letter offering to quit. Ramesh is considered a strategist and had resigned a few months before the last Lok Sabha polls to work for the party.

Khurshid, who holds law and minority affairs portfolios, refused to confirm if he had written a letter but said the party can never take a second position.

"Party comes first, party makes the government, government does not make the party. ...party cannot ever take second position," Khurshid told a news channel.

Khurshid is leant to have written to Gandhi just after the Uttar Pradesh assembly election results last month, explaining the reasons for the party's drubbing.

He is also believed to have offered to quit his post and work for the party. Khurshid's wife Louise was among Congress candidates who lost in Uttar Pradesh elections.

Narayansamy also echoed Khurshid's sentiments about the party being supreme.

"Party is the priority," he said and added that he was a loyal soldier of the party and would do any task assigned by Gandhi.

Azad did not comment on the media speculation that he had offered to resign.

The speculation about ministers having offered to resign came on a day Congress moved to get eight of its MPs suspended from the Lok Sabha for repeatedly disrupting the house over separate statehood to Telangana.

Congress sources said Gandhi held talks with top party brass including Pranab Mukherjee, A.K. Antony, P. Chidambaram and Ahmed Patel. Pawan Kumar Bansal and V. Narayanasamy were also present at the meeting. They said Khurshid and Ramesh met her in the evening.

The sources said changes could be made in the government and the party organisation after the budget session. They said the Congress president will take into account report of Antony committee on election reverses in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Goa and its less than impressive performance in Uttarakhand before deciding on changes in the party.

The party has to gear up for assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat later this year and in Karnataka early next year. All the three states are ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The Antony panel is expected to give its report by the end of this month.

UPA-II government will be completing three years next month.  

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