New Delhi, Nov 4 (IANS) Was the Congress' show of strength at a rally at the Ramlila Maidan here Sunday to assert the UPA government's credentials on fighting corruption and pushing reforms really successful? Analysts said the image-boosting exercise did help the Congress take its message across but the move might be "little and late".
At the rally, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi hit out at the opposition, particularly the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), over its allegations of corruption against the government.
The Congress leaders spoke in unison about the benefits of foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail to farmers, consumers and its role in creating jobs for the youth, three key constituencies for the party.
They also spoke about the compulsions of the government to hike price of petroleum products.
However, the contentious decision of putting a cap on subsidised cylinders was not elaborated upon. The rally, held on the day of voting in Himachal Pradesh, was an apparent attempt to take the battle into the opposition camp in the wake of likely effort by BJP, Left and the Trinamool Congress to isolate the government on FDI and corruption in the forthcoming winter session of parliament.
Corruption and FDI are likely to be poll issues in the Gujarat assembly polls this December and string of assembly polls next year.
Rahul Gandhi accused the opposition of telling lies on FDI and stalling the Lokpal Bill in parliament.
The prime minister said the economic decisions of the government were aimed at ushering in faster economic growth.
Sonia Gandhi referred to corruption as a disease and said the party would continue to fight it. Claiming credit for the Right to Information Act, she said it was instrumental in uncovering corruption.
Amid talk in political circles of the possibility of early Lok Sabha elections, Sonia Gandhi expressed confidence about "positive results".
"We want to make it clear that when the country is passing through political, economic and social challenges, the Congress is firmly determined that we will fight all these challenges, succeed and bring positive results," she said.
Political analyst Subrata Mukherjee said Congress had been at the receiving end of allegations and needed to provide an answer.
"It (the rally) remains a symbolic mobilisation. It may be too little, too late. Such moves will not create an impression unless the government acts and puts out a cleaner image," Mukherjee, a former professor at Delhi University, told IANS.
He said moves such as FDI in retail should have been made when UPA-II came to power. Asked about Rahul Gandhi's assertion to make the political system more "open", Mukherjee said such words "do not cut ice with people anymore".
Nisar-ul-Haq, professor of political science in Jamia Millia Islamia, said the Congress in the past had not been effectively reaching out to people in the face of concerted attack by the opposition and the rally had helped fill the gap.
"They (were) not clarifying what they were doing. The Congress wanted to assert itself," he said.
He defended Rahul Gandhi's remarks about the need to make the political system more open. "What he means is promoting youth. When he will be in total control, he will do things according to him," Haq said.
Rakesh Sinha of Delhi University, said that the Congress tried to increase its self-confidence through the rally but its leadership did not speak of steps taken to deal with corruption allegations against some party leaders.
"The advantage for the Congress is that a united opposition has not been able to put its act together," Sinha said. George Mathew, chairman, Institute of Social Sciences, said the rally was aimed at going on the offensive against the opposition.
He said it is not difficult for the ruling party to organise a large gathering. The Congress will follow Sunday's rally with an informal review-cum-strategy meet Nov 9 at Surajkund near Delhi. The prime minister had reshuffled his council of minister last Sunday.
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