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Get ready for polls: Sonia
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, June 28
While external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee today declared that there was no immediate threat to the UPA government, Congress president Sonia Gandhi set the ball rolling for elections when she fixed a deadline of August-end to tone up the party organisation, chalk out poll campaigns and select candidates.

“Get ready for elections”, was the message, which emanated from the Congress president’s 90-minute meeting with party functionaries at her residence today, where she assessed the ground situation in various states.

There was no mention of the crisis facing the UPA government in the light of its sharp differences with the Left parties on the Indo-US nuclear deal or any reference to the possibility of an early election but the sense of urgency was palpable at the meeting.

“This meeting was about poll preparations. The Lok Sabha elections were also discussed, the party has to get ready for polls and everybody has been asked to draw up programmes and submit these at the next meeting,” AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said after the meeting.

AICC general secretaries in charge of the states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, which were going to polls made presentations about the steps taken to constitute various organisational structures, rallies and political conventions they had organised to publicise the UPA government’s flagship programmes like the farm-loan waiver and the forest rights Act for tribals.

AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi spoke on the talent search he had been conducting to rejuvenate the Youth Congress and the party’s students wing.

Sonia Gandhi asked senior party leaders to draw up time-bound programmes and strategies to energise the organisation throughout the country ahead of the five assembly and the Lok Sabha polls.

Since the farm loan-waiver scheme is to be implemented by this month-end, the Congress president told party leaders to organise district and block-level meetings to tell people about this programme, Congress spokesperson Veerappa Moily told reporters.

Sonia Gandhi also directed that all vacancies in the state, district and block-level units be filled on a priority basis so that the organisation structures were in place well in time for the elections.

“Basically she wants that the entire organisation should be in place by August-end,” remarked an AICC office-bearer.

Dismissing speculation about an early Lok Sabha poll, Moily maintained that the party had begun its preparations for the general elections as the UPA government had completed four years in office and there was less than a year to go for the Lok Sabha election.

He said at the meeting it was also decided that a brainstorming session would be held in the second half of July to review the party’s poll preparations.

Although there is still no clarity on the UPA government’s response to the Left’s ultimatum on the nuke deal, Moily reiterated that the Congress party’s commitment to the deal and remained optimistic about getting the Communists on board. “Till they go out, we have hope,” Moily said.



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