Cong's Surajkund session to witness party-govt faceoff
Friday's Samvad Baithak of the Congress at Surajkund in Haryana is set to witness a face off between the party and the government, reports Renu Mittal.
The 75 top Congress leaders participating in the meeting will also discuss key political and economic issues.
They will also ask for a report card from the party general secretaries on the position of the Congress in their states and seek an explanation from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and senior Cabinet ministers on the unfulfilled manifesto promises.
It is for the first time that Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, now designated the number two without any incremental post being given, would be directly assessing and discussing the working of each ministry in the closed-door party meeting.
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Image: PM Singh with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters
Rahul Gandhi to be seen in a bigger role
While Congress chief Sonia Gandhi will make the opening and closing remarks on the political situation and the PM would set the ball rolling on the economic challenges facing the country, it will be Rahul Gandhi who will be seen in a bigger role.
Finance Minister P Chidambaram is also expected to address the meeting which will have a full-fledged discussion on the unfulfilled promises made by the Congress.
19 Congress Working Committee members, 16 permanent invitees, 23 Cabinet ministers and 12 ministers of state with Independent charge have been invited for the meeting.
Sources said that senior Congress leaders want better communication with the government before crucial decisions are taken. There is a feeling that often government takes such decisions that create problems for the Congress, and corrective measures need to be adopted for the same.
A senior All India Congress Committee functionary gave the example of the government's decision to increase the prices of non-subsidised LPG cylinders on the eve of the Himachal Pradesh election, which had to be rolled back the same night, only to leave the party red-faced.
"There is a feeling that better co-ordination is required to ensure that the trigger-happy government does not shoot from the hip," the leader remarked.
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Image: Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi
Photographs: Jayanta Shaw/Reuters
Congress in damage control mode
Also the party is apparently unhappy with central ministers going to opposition-ruled states and giving certificates to their chief ministers, and the Congress general secretaries are left to bear the brunt when workers complain that this cannot work on the ground.
To give the media a new talking point and to ensure that television cameras are not full of the sight of red beacons blazing away, Sonia Gandhi has written to CWC members and ministers asking them to report to 24, Akbar Road -- the Congress headquarters in New Delhi-- at 8 am from where they will be ferried in two air conditioned buses to Surajkund.
The programme starts at 10 am and there would be six hours of discussions at a stretch with just a working lunch in between.
The Congress as a party is going in for damage control, as was evident from the Ramilila Maidan rally on Sunday, and now the move to shun ostentation and travel plebian style even for high-flying ministers and CWC members.
The only exemptions have been made for the PM, the Congress president and Rahul Gandhi as they are SPG protectees.
Sources also said the Congress, apart from reviewing the party and government performance, is expected to look at the road map ahead and discuss alliances. The party would need to get its act together and work up a cohesive strategy as it looks at a third term, in the face of the disarray evident in the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.
Image: PM Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi wave to their supporters during rally in New Delhi's Ramlila Maidan ground on Sunday
Photographs: Mansi Thapliyal/Reuters