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Tuesday, September 8, 1998
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Sonia raps government on anarchy

BHOPAL, Sept 7 (PTI, UNI) — The Congress President, Ms Sonia Gandhi today hit out against the Vajpayee government saying that people already groaning under spiralling prices were now living under the constant fear of consuming adulterated foodstuff.

Addressing a convention of Congress workers here, she said the growing lawlessness in the society was fast assuming the proportion of anarchy.

Despite such grave provocations of peoples' miseries, the Congress had acted with restraint and not tried to manipulate the situation to topple the BJP-led government, Sonia Gandhi said.

But the Congress as a responsible Opposition was ready to shoulder the responsibility of governing should the Vajpayee government collapse because of its inherent weaknesses, she said.

"In case the Vajpayee government fell because of its own weaknesses, the Congress will not shy away from its responsibility,’’ she said.

Asking party leaders of the state to work unitedly for a Congress victory in the November Assembly poll Ms Gandhi, who arrived here this morning from Pachmarhi, after attending the three-day party conclave, stressed the need for unity. She said the Congress would be able to face any challenge if the partymen stayed united.

She described the forthcoming assembly elections as a challenge which had to be met head on.

She assured the Scheduled Castes, the scheduled tribes, the weaker sections, minorities, women and youth of adequate representation in the distribution of ticket.

Calling upon party workers to work with full dedication to strengthen the party, she said steps would be taken to make the organisation more active.

Ms Gandhi said her party would give priority to the protection and welfare of the Scheduled Castes, the scheduled tribes, the other weaker sections of society and minorities. The Congress would continue to struggle for social justice, she added.

She said nationalisation of the tendu leaf trade, ownership rights to slum dwellers, increasing irrigation potential, uplift of landless farmers, reservation for the other backward classes (OBCs) were among the steps taken by successive Congress governments in the state.

She said Madhya Pradesh was the first to implement the Panchayati Raj system for the decentralisation of power which she said was one of the major achievements of the Digvijay Singh government.

Without naming the BJP, the Congress president said the main opposition party in Madhya Pradesh, twice got the opportunity to rule was but was wiped out in the next elections. This indicated that the Congress was strong enough to take on such parties, she added.

Speaking on the occasion, Chief Minister Digvijay Singh said the Congress was not weak in Madhya Pradesh and there were no differences among party leaders.

He said Ms Gandhi’s determination had proved that the Congress was not power hungry.

Earlier, welcoming the Congress chief and party delegates MPCC President Urmila Singh expressed confidence that her party would retain power after the forthcoming assembly elections.

AICC General Secretaries Madhavrao Scindia, and Tariq Anwar, joint secretary Ramesh Channithala, Sewa Dal president Suresh Pachouri, former union ministers Motilal Vora, Vidya Charan Shukla, Anil Shastri, and Kamalnath and former Chief Minister Shayma Charan Shukla were among those present. back


Cong declaration skirts vital issue
From K V Prasad
Tribune News Service

PACHMARHI, (M P), Sept 7 — “Pachmarhi Declaration”, the document which reflects the confluence of ideas emerging here after three-days of “Chintan and Manthan” woven into Congress policies quietly put on hold a decision on a vital issue — sweeping changes in the organisation.

Buried under the heap of self-congratulatory gestures over the “success of the Vichar Manthan Shivir” in this picturesque hill resort, is the fact that the party could not come to a conclusion on suggestions to improve the image and strengthen the 113-year-old party.

Barring a major political pronouncement on the attitude of the party towards coalitions, the much-touted 11-page declaration is high on content in policies which the Congress could do little to change — economic, agriculture and international affairs — for it is now in the Opposition.

Hidden behind the rhetoric and promises of bright future is the fact that the issue which needed to be addressed rightaway, organisation affairs, is dismissed in just two paragraphs.

The reason behind it is not far to seek. For some of the changes that were suggested by the group of delegates who took part in the deliberations of organisation could well alter the face of the party. Incidentally the sub-group attracted maximum participation, 109 delegates out of 230.

The suggestions many of which found acceptance by the delegates of the sub-group, were radical. To cite some examples:

... Limit number of terms in Rajya Sabha to two.

... Contribute 1 per cent of net assessable income each year to party funds.

... Retirement age for party members holding positions in organisation and legislative wings at 70 years.

... Denying tickets to candidates who have lost security deposits at the hustings.

... Allow members to hold office in the organisation or legislature even after they are booked in cases. Exception to be made only after charges are framed formally by a court of law.

... Cooling period of at least two years for deserters who rejoin party by denying responsible positions either in the organisation or in the government.

... Code of conduct for party members and declaration of assets by all office-bearers.

... 33 per cent reservation to women at all levels in the organisation and respectful representation for SC/ST, OBCs and minorities

... Raise the tenure of party chiefs both at AICC and other levels to three years instead of two.

These were in addition to some suggestions in the background papers circulated before the “Shivir”. Some of those like raising the strength of the Congress Working Committee from 21 to 31, and removing dual membership instead of the present primary and active were rejected.

Since some of the suggestions do require amendment in the Congress Constitution, the Declaration said it transmits to the Congress Constitution Review Committee the suggestions made by the sub-group on organisation for strengthening it.

The Congress President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, too made a brief mention about it in her valedictory address yesterday stating “some recommendations which require a review of our party constitution” as a task she was confident would be completed soon.

It has been decided to call another meeting of the CWC to give a final shape to these suggestions, yet some senior Congress leaders felt the party lost an opportunity to send the right message by delaying a decision on these radical suggestions.

“After all if you want to project the Congress as a value-based party, we should have decided on some of these and include them in the Pachmarhi Declaration,” one senior CWC member said.

The issues like limiting terms for Rajya Sabha or denying tickets to those who lose security deposits are just norms which do not require constitutional changes, the member added.

Another member felt it was a measure of success that on account of free and frank discussions, such serious and face- changing suggestions emerged.

“There is no point in pushing in changes in reforms and time should be taken to study all round implications before committing the party to it,’’ concluded another CWC member.

It remains to be seen how soon the Congress President brings about the changes in party structure for the real thrust should be as she herself said: “Reviewing where we are and where we are headed’’.back

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