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Day 1 at Congress plenary: Blame the BJP

Last updated on: December 19, 2010 20:13 IST

Day 1 at Congress plenary: Blame the BJP

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Rediff.com's Krishmakumar Padmanabhan reports at the end of the first day of the Congress plenary session in New Delhi 

If you were present at the 83rd Congress plenary in New Delhi on Sunday, you would have thought that there is nothing wrong with the second United Progressive Alliance government, the government is not plagued by any corruption scandals, B S Yeddyurappa is the only corrupt politician in the country, and the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh are responsible for all that ails the country.

Because this is the picture that the party tried to paint on the first day of the plenary, attended by 5000-odd jaded Congressmen and women from various levels of the party.

Speaker after speaker named Yeddyurappa, top leaders mentioned the RSS while saying nothing about Islamic terrorism (Only Pranab Mukherjee even mentioned it, and even then it was in the sense that terrorism emanating from either religion's fringe groups are two sides of the same coin.)

The party resolution too was an all-out attack on the BJP rather than a piece of any real introspection.


Image: The Congress plenary session in progress
Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
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Sonia's mantra: Connect with the grassroots

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Probably the only constructive criticism to emerge from the meet was that the party's leaders were out of touch with the grassroots and that they need to get more in touch with the cadre. Sonia Gandhi mentioned it, saying some of the Union ministers were totally out of touch with the grassroots, even in their constituencies.

She said the major lesson that needed to be learnt from the Bihar assembly poll fiasco, where the party won an abysmal 4 seats, is that the grassroots worker is the most valuable asset for the party and that leaders should engage and motivate the cadre vigorously.

Rahul Gandhi followed it up in his address, saying it was a complaint he heard wherever he went. Pointing to the assembled leaders, he said it is high time they paid more attention to the grassroots level workers and spared more time for them.

The crowd roared its approval in what was probably the loudest endorsement for anything that was said through the day.

Image: Congress President Sonia Gandhi speaks at the plenary session
Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
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Charge of the Rahul brigade: Young guns want to go solo

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Among those chosen to speak at the plenary was Virudhanagar MP Manicka Tagore, Rahul Gandhi's blue-eyed boy in Tamil Nadu, which will go to polls in April 2011.

Tagore capped an otherwise sedate speech with a veiled threat to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Congress's senior ally in Tamil Nadu and an UPA constituent. He said the time was right for the Congress to bring back to the glory days of K Kamaraj (Tamil Nadu's last Congress chief minister) and that Rahul Gandhi would be the best person to lead the charge.

Following this up, Tagore said that for the Congress party, self-respect is the most important aspect in an alliance, and that if the party is to renew its tie-up with the DMK, it should be ensured that Congress's self esteem was not compromised.

This is seen as the beginning of an attempt to arm twist the DMK to part with more seats in the upcoming elections, and reflects the Congress dilemma on whether to even tie-up at all with the DMK, whose public image took a beating following the resignation of A Raja as Union telecom minister, and the initiation of a Supreme Court monitored Central Bureau of Investigation enquiry against him.

Another MP from West Bengal echoed similar sentiments about the Trinamool Congress, saying Mamata didn't respect the Congress and brushed aside Congress MPs in West Bengal. She said the Congress should think twice about tying up with such a volatile ally, and even if it does, should ensure that it's self-esteem is not compromised.

What the young MPs brought forward is in line with Rahul Gandhi's stated vision that the Congress should get back to contesting important state elections on its own strength if it has any ambition of forming a government at the centre on its own.


Image: A poster of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi at the venue
Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
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Aam Aadmi and Saffron bashing dominated the agenda

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Two days after leaked US cables released by Wikileaks showed that Rahul Gandhi thinks Hindu terror is a bigger threat to the country than that posed by outfits like the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, the Congress plenary was ablaze with RSS and Vishwa Hindu Parishad bashing.

Apart from a prominent mention in the resolution, the RSS was mentioned by virtually every other speaker.

But intriguingly, Rahul Gandhi himself skipped the topic in his dreary speech, instead focusing on his other pet cliche, the Aam Aadmi (Common Man). The whole exercise, where a host of leaders from different rungs in the party ladder stepped up the attack on the right wing organisation, looked like an attempt to drown out Rahul's comments and deflect attention from him.


Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the plenary
Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
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Chidambaram mentors the youth brigade

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Home Minister P Chidambaram was arguably the most popular senior party leader among the party's young turks. As he sat alone in the enclosure for ministers, during the afternoon session, almost every young politician in view came up to him to wish him.

After a brief interruption that caught his attention when Bihar Congress members raised slogans against general secretary Mukul Wasnik, Chidambaram returned to his seat.

First Sachin Pilot, and then Jyotiraditya Scindia sought him out. After a brief chat, both the Gen Next leaders sat beside him and were soon joined by Jitin Prasada. The three were all ears as Chidambaram continued talking to them till Rahul Gandhi began his address.


Image: Home Minister P Chidambaram at the ministerial enclosure during the session
Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
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