Gorbachev Faces Innuendo, Rivalry
SOVIET UNION'S NEW DEPUTIES
WITH just a day to go before the opening of the Soviet Union's new parliament, the Congress of People's Deputies, there are increasing signs that maverick political leader Boris Yeltsin plans to challenge Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev for the country's presidency. After a big rally Sunday night, staged by some groups calling for radical political and economic reform, one newly elected deputy asked Mr. Yeltsin, ``Do you want to be president?''
Yeltsin, he recalled, demurred. ``I don't want to, but the people want me to,'' he answered.
Some of the same radical deputies who had supported Yeltsin against official attacks during the campaign - and in some cases were elected on his coattails - are beginning to be apprehensive of both his ambitions and his real political platform.
A plenary meeting of the Communist Party Central Committee Monday ``recommended'' Mr. Gorbachev's candidacy for the presidency. Until the March 26 elections, it seemed inevitable that Gorbachev would be the only candidate. But the elections, with their anti-establishment groundswell and Yeltsin's overwhelming victory in Moscow, dramatically changed the political landscape.
There are signs that the party leadership is still trying hard to keep the situation under control. Gorbachev addressed one so-far unpublicized meeting of new deputies on Monday afternoon.
Deputies who attended were reportedly displeased that the Soviet leader apparently tried to present an agenda for the congress: Deputies have said repeatedly that they want to do this themselves when they convene. Other new members of congress complain that the leadership is trying to pack the new standing parliament - the 542-member Supreme Soviet, which will be elected by the 2,250 deputies this week - with little-known or conservative deputies.