Sitaram Kesri was an old Congress hand who rose in the ranks of the party. From being the Bihar Congress Committee president to All India Congress Committee (AICC) treasurer and finally the party’s top job, Kesri did it well.
However, Sitaram Kesri is known not for being the Congress president but how shabbily he was stripped off his post to place Sonia Gandhi as the party chief. Gandhi topi firmly on head and comfortable with palace intrigues, Kesri was a Congressman who rose through the ranks in the post-Nehru era. Sadly, his defining legacy as Congress president was when he pulled the plug on the Deve Gowda government in March 1997 in the hope that this was his best chance to bag the country’s top job.
This is how Sonia Gandhi took off Sitaram Kesri’s post as Congress President:
Out of nowhere, in 1997, Sonia Gandhi announced that she would campaign for the Congress party in the Lok Sabha election due for March 1998. Sitaram Kesri was the Congress president at the time. Sonia Gandhi joined the party in December 1997 at its plenary session in then Calcutta. She addressed her first election rally in Tamil Nadu, the state where Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated.
In January, Sitaram Kesri welcomed the decision by Sonia Gandhi to join the Congress and campaign for the party in an interview, according to India Today. Demands were being made in the Congress party asking Sitaram Kesri to hand over the reins of the party to Sonia Gandhi.
But Sitaram Kesri, then 82, wanted to hold on for some time as he had some support in the party. However, the majority wanted Sonia Gandhi as the new president of the party. The Congress Working Committee passed a resolution on March 14, 1998, asking Sitaram Kesri to step down as party president.
Sitaram Kesri was reportedly locked in a room in the Congress headquarters on the Akbar Road in New Delhi to prevent him from creating obstacles in Sonia Gandhi entering the office of the Congress president.
The Congress leader passed away on October 24, 2000.