Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has called a meeting of chief ministers of party-ruled states to chalk out the party's strategy in the run-up to the general election. The leaders would focus on setting up of Lokayuktas in a time-bound manner in states and curbing food inflation.
The party was defeated in four states due to price rise and corruption. The chief ministers have been asked to prepare a detailed presentation on their strategy to combat price rise.
While Rahul Gandhi will deliver his opening remarks, each CM will be given 15 minutes to speak. That apart, Finance Minister P Chidambaram, the food minister and the minister for Department of Personnel and Training will address the CMs on key issues of price rise, food inflation and Lokpal legislation respectively. The meeting will go on from 10 am to 5 pm with a short break for lunch.
Rahul Gandhi had already flagged these two areas as “priority” in his last address to industry body FICCI last week. The success of the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi on its anti- corruption plank has shown the Congress the writing on the wall.
The chief ministers’ conference with Gandhi comes at a time when the party is finalising both its manifesto and its strategy for 2014. Although the Congress believes that the blow that has been dealt to the UPA government by a series of scams starting from 2G spectrum allocation to coal-gate has been softened to some extent with the government getting the Lokpal Bill passed in Parliament, the corruption charges against the party will be difficult to wash off entirely.
However, Gandhi has decided to focus on getting the Congress-ruled states to set up Lokayuktas in the run-up to 2014. Gandhi hopes that this would help assuage public concerns over corruption.
Despite the fact that Gandhi has time and again declared as he did at FICCI that “corruption” was the “biggest issue” that was “bleeding people dry” and had even earlier done the unthinkable by describing the ordinance on tainted ‘netas’ as ‘nonsense’ -- the Congress state governments’ actions have not matched with his words.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, for instance, is obviously on the back foot over the Adarsh housing scam. In Haryana, the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led government has been in the dock over land dealings of Robert Vadra.
Gandhi had stated that “beating inflation was a top priority”. Price rise was even cited by party president Sonia Gandhi as one of the possible issues that had led to the party's disastrous performance in the recent polls. The Congress will be focusing on hammering out “concrete actions” and “measures to control price rise”.
The ministers have been directed to prepare notes on food inflation and Agricultural Produce and Marketing Committee. The DoPT minister has been tasked with preparing a “specific actions” on what legislative amendments and steps are needed to implement the Lokayukta Act.
Among the reasons that would be cited for food inflation would be the rise in wages of UPA's flagship rural job scheme and the hiking of minimum support price.
The chief ministers of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttarkhand, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam are expected to attend the day-long conference.
Image: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi