M A I N   N E W S

Leave it to Madam, says Cong; but Sonia mum on corruption
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent


n “Inclusive growth” and welfare of “aam admi” priority areas
n Curbing rising food prices remains the biggest challenge
n “Fight against communalism, fanaticism of all kinds” must continue
n In addition to giving priority to J-K’s development, there has to be a simultaneous “meaningful, political dialogue” with all sections of society in the state

New Delhi, November 2
If the All-India Congress Committee (AICC) delegates, gathered at the Talkatora Stadium for a major national meeting today, were hoping that its leaders would shed light on the allegations of corruption which are currently haunting the party, they had to go back disappointed.

The Congress top brass - party president Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee —who addressed the meeting steered clear of making any reference to the Adarsh Housing Society scam or the Commonwealth Games mess. Nor was there any mention of corruption or probity in public life, the two issues which normally always figure in Sonia Gandhi’s speeches.

Faced with a shrill opposition attack on these issues, the Congress instead turned the tables on the BJP’s parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), by putting it in the dock for its involvement in acts of terror. Underlining that communalism is the biggest challenge before the party, the Congress exhorted its cadres to fight against forces which spread religious hatred and bigotry.

Party president Sonia Gandhi’s inaugural speech set the tone for the meeting of AICC members, which subsequently authorised her to nominate members to the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision-making body. Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and Commonwealth Games Organising Committee chief Suresh Kalmadi were both present at the meet.

While sidestepping the issue of corruption, Sonia Gandhi reiterated the party’s well-known position on secularism, stating its “fight against communalism and fanaticism of all kinds” must continue. Although the Congress president did not name the BJP or the RSS, the reference to the saffron organisation was evident when she spoke of the recent Allahabad High Court order on the Ram Janambhoomi- Babri Masjid title suit which, she emphasised, did not condone the demolition of the mosque in 1992. “This was a shameful and criminal act, for which the perpetrators must be brought to book,” she underlined.

The AICC statement, piloted by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and subsequently adopted by the delegates, hit out directly at the RSS and its sister organisations. Referring to the Congress party’s ideological and political battle against communalism, the statement spoke of revelations linking the RSS to terrorist acts.

"Recent investigation reveals the true colour of RSS. It shows the involvement of RSS members in acts of terrorism. Communal and terrorist elements, whichever sources they might originate from, that aim at destroying our national fabric will be fought at all cost,” it said.

While communalism was high on today’s agenda, Sonia Gandhi also spoke on a range of other issues, including the recent developments in Jammu and Kashmir, the continuing threat of Naxal violence and the nagging problem of rising prices.

Making a lengthy mention of the new situation in Jammu and Kashmir, Sonia Gandhi emphasised that in addition to giving priority to the state’s development, there has to be a simultaneous “meaningful, political dialogue” with all sections of the society and with all regions of the state. She endorsed the Prime Minister’s statement that the key to a permanent peace is a political solution that address the alienation and political needs of the people.

Similarly, “inclusive growth” and “aam admi” were the other issues which figured in today’s speeches. While maintaining that the fruits of development must percolate down to the most vulnerable sections of society, Sonia Gandhi said that curbing rising food prices remains the biggest challenge before the government as a booming stockmarket does not reflect the troubles of the common man. While agreeing that high prices of essential commodities is a major concern, Pranab Mukherjee said the government has never undermined this challenge.

Stating that the Congress-led government had worked tirelessly for the uplift of the “aam admi” during the last six years, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh referred to the various social sector programmes which had been targeted at the poor, women, Dalits and minorities during its tenure. The Congress, according to him, had always kept the interests of the weaker sections of society in mind. “Our party believes in uniting people, not dividing them,” he said, adding that its vision of economic development is aimed at benefiting all sections.





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