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Sonia talks of common minimum programme
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 16
An aggressive and confident Congress President Sonia Gandhi appears all set to take on the NDA government, in more ways than one. Besides putting her house in order and building alliances for the coming Lok Sabha election, she is also sharpening her attack against the government’s claims and propaganda.

This was clear from Ms Gandhi’s informal interaction with the media today when she blasted the NDA government while stating that her talks with potential allies are continuing. Ms Gandhi did not give details on the alternative alliance she is seeking to put together, except to say that she is talking to everybody. She disclosed she would be meeting DMK chief M. Karunanidhi’s representative tomorrow in connection with the proposed electoral tie-up in Tamil Nadu.

In a related development, Ms Gandhi followed up on her meeting with NCP President Sharad Pawar when she deputed senior leader Manmohan Singh to talk to him on forging a broad alliance of secular forces.

Ms Gandhi, however, sidestepped a question on collective leadership of the proposed alliance but did not rule out the possibility of having a common minimum programme in case an alliance fructifies. She also refused to comment on the Congress party’s relationship with the Samajwadi Party or whether she would also be talking to SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav.

However, she repeatedly maintained that it was early days yet. “We are in the process of discussing ...there’s still plenty of time,” she reiterated, adding that they had not fixed any time-frame for firming up its electoral alliances.

She also reacted angrily to the NDA government’s claim of a prevailing “feel good” factor and the charge that the Congress party did not have a “young face” or a credible second-rung leadership, describing this as a “mayajaal” being spread by the “other side”.

On both these issues, Ms Gandhi maintained, the claims had little bearing on the reality. She said contrary to the NDA government’s claims, “there is no feel good factor at the ground level.”

Speaking to presspersons midway through the meeting of PCC chiefs and CLP leaders, Ms Gandhi said on her recent tour of Western Uttar Pradesh, she herself had seen that there was no “feel good” factor operating there.

Ms Gandhi made it amply clear that the Congress would pin down the NDA government on issues like the growing unemployment and problems in the agriculture sector in its election campaign. “There is an immense feeling of discontentment, especially among the farmers and the youth,” she pointed out, adding that people are not going to be fooled by all these “ghoshnas” made recently by the government.

She went on to blast the NDA for being insensitive to the needs of the people.” If they really cared about the farmers, the women, and the youth, they would jolly well have done something for them in the last five years,” observed a visibly angry Congress President.

She also disagreed with the projection of the BJP as a party with a young face as opposed to the Congress. “This is nothing but a mayajaal being spread by the other side,” Ms. Gandhi said, pointing to the photographs of the BJP meetings which, she said, showed only old faces.

Contrary to what is said about their party, the Congress, she said, has plenty of young faces and second-rung leaders. “It is just that they are not in focus as they are not in power,” she added. She also disclosed that she would go in for minor changes or reallocation of jobs in the party instead of any major organisational revamp.


End infighting, Sonia tells party men
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 16
Taking a cue from the Pranab Mukherjee committee report, Congress President Sonia Gandhi has now turned her attention to the task of streamlining and strengthening the party organisation.

A special meeting of all Congress chief ministers, presidents of state units of the party and legislature party leaders was convened today where each one of the participants was asked to make a detailed presentation on the extent to which the party is prepared to face the coming Lok Sabha elections and the strategies to be adopted in the states.

The emphasis of the day-long deliberations was on building the party organisation from bottom up — beginning at the block committee-level and working up to the district and pradesh committees.

Ms Gandhi is reported to have told the participants to end all infighting in the respective state units and work unitedly for the elections by launching an aggressive campaign against the NDA government but keeping the focus on issues and not personalities.

While identifying the various issues like unemployment and problems of farmers on which the Congress could attack the NDA, participants felt they should also come up with a more positive agenda.

Congress spokesperson S. Jaipal Reddy said the Congress President’s initiative to forge an alliance of secular parties was welcomed by all the participants. However, they all urged the central party leadership to ensure that the candidates were selected well in advance for the coming poll, particularly since the campaign period was now reduced to two weeks. It was also suggested that talks with political partners be hastened so that there was clarity about the seats which were to be contested. Back

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