M A I N   N E W S

Gear up for LS polls, Sonia tells partymen
Backs govt policies Forms coordination group to work for 2014 victory Antony speaks against reforms
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 9
With the UPA government’s image having taken a severe beating following charges of corruption and policy paralysis levelled against the UPA government, the Congress today began the process of putting its house in order to prepare for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Getting into poll mode, Congress president Sonia Gandhi announced the constitution of a coordination group with three sub-groups mandated to work for the party’s return to power even as she underlined the need for the party and the government to work cohesively to secure a renewed mandate, AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi told media persons.

Simultaneously, the government said its scheme for Direct Cash Transfer for PDS beneficiaries will be rolled out from January 1, adding that 51 districts would be covered in the first phase, 18 states by April 1 next year and 16 states by April 1, 2014. The cash transfer scheme is being billed as the government’s major flagship programme on the lines of UPA I’s rural job guarantee scheme.

It was perhaps apt that the government’s announcement came on a day when the party’s top brass ‘Samvad Baithak’ (dialogue session) at Surajkund, aimed at stepping up coordination between the party and the government and setting the agenda for the upcoming polls. The session was attended by Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, members of the party’s working committee, AICC office bearers and Congress Union ministers.

Urging the party and the government to bury their differences and to understand each other’s compulsions, Sonia set the tone for the discussions as she asked the partymen to counter the opposition’s propaganda aggressively.

Days after she backed the PM’s reforms agenda, Sonia reiterated her support for these policies and asked the party to explain why it had become necessary for the government to introduce these measures. She was backed by son Rahul Gandhi who spoke of a “paradigm shift” while referring to the liberalisation programme.

However, several leaders, who participated in today’s discussions, expressed their reservations over the government’s recent decision to cap the number of subsidised LPG cylinders for which, they said, the party would pay a heavy political price. Sources said there was unanimity that the cap on LPG cylinder be raised from the present six to 12. Responding to their views, Petroleum Minister Veerappa Moily said he would take a decision after discussing the matter with the PM.

Defence Minister AK Antony, however, spoke against reforms and reminded the party that the Congress is a “party of the aam admi and their interests must be protected.”

AICC general secretary Digivijaya Singh and Union Minister Kamal Nath spoke about the inroads made by the RSS which had cost the party the support of the tribals. Kamal Nath said the party organisation must be strengthened if the Congress wants to get re-elected. “Election is 70 per cent management,” he declared, adding this was lacking.

Responding to the concerns expressed over the adverse political fallout of the government’s reform measures, the PM and Finance Minister P Chidambaram said the government had little option but to take tough measures given the unmanageable subsidy bill, growing fiscal deficit and high inflation.

There was no direct mention to FDI in retail, the PM and Chidambaram spoke of the urgent need of expediting decisions and clearances to attract foreign and domestic investments, which had slowed down for several reasons. “Foreign investment are not an option but an imperative,” Chidambaram said, adding that reforms were needed to end stagnation.

What the party wants

  Increasing cap of six LPG cylinders per family to 12

  Bring in a Budget with significant tax sops and programmes for all sections of society

  Many leaders, including Antony, say the party should not lose sight of the common man while pushing forward the reforms agenda





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