Prime Minister Manmohan Singh now has Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s formal endorsement to his reformist measures like FDI in retail, hike in diesel prices and rationing of six to delivery of subsidized LPG cylinders.
Her endorsement came at the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest policy making body, which met on Tuesday morning to give the impression that on a series of reform measures, that have bitterly contested by the Opposition, the organisational machinery of the Congress party and the Government are completely in sync.
The party is now planning to hold a public rally in Delhi to keep up its aggressive posture and to send a message that it has both the strength and public support to counter the Opposition’s belligerence. Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, though not a CWC member, was specially invited to the meeting to discuss this proposal and coordinate with all concerned at different fronts. The date for Congress’s rally, however, has not been decided yet.
Interestingly, the Congress isn’t the only party with plans to hold a rally around the capital. Trinamool Congress chief Mamta Banerjee has already announced her plan to hold a rally in Delhi on 1 October. JD(U) leader and Bihar Chief Minister is planning a rally in Delhi to pressurise the Centre to grant special status to Bihar. The BJP is holding its three-day National Executive and Council meeting on Delhi’s border at Surajkund in Faridabad between September 26-28.
The CWC also chose to address issues, which were not addressed in Prime Minister’s address to the nation on the same subject. If the thrust of Manmohan Singh’s address was playing on fear factor of people in an economic doomsday scenario, and saying that the reforms were a necessary measure to restore the confidence of domestic and foreign investors, Sonia stressed that the reform was necessary to have enough cash in the kitty to finance the slew of flagship social sector policy measures (MANREGA, proposed food security bill, etc).
Party general secretary and Chairman, media department, Janardan Dwivedi said that “Prime Minister too spoke at the end of discussions” and said the government’s flagship programmes for weaker section could not take off without generating adequate resources.
Given the political turbulence at the Centre and upcoming assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, it was of great importance that Congress was seen to be expressing concerns of common people. Though no reference was made to Trinamool Congress’s withdrawal of support and of the upcoming assembly elections, lest to hype it, the fact remains Sonia’s directive to the party is to strongly carry home a positive message of Congress’s developmental work.
The actual intentions behind economic reforms are also to give a boost to sagging morale of workers in face of adverse public opinion on Coalgate and a step forward in making the party battle ready. Dwivedi in his briefing mentioned that Sonia Gandhi had blasted the Opposition, particularly the main opposition party (BJP) for its negativity.
The Congress is attempting to cover up lost ground, after a series of corruption scandals have dogged the UPA government, by sending a message that it has risen out of what was being called ‘policy paralysis’, and that might also explain rare sight of the CWC meet being held as early as 9 am. The official reason given for the 9 am meeting was that the top functionaries of the party had to participate in an official function held at Vigyan Bhawan at 11 am to mark 150th birth anniversary of Motilal Nehru.
The ruling party should be in the state of battle preparedness, though officially the Congress is not willing to talk about it. But the underlying message in Sonia’s opening remarks at the meet was a clear pointer to that.
Party general secretary Rahul Gandhi, who is expected to be formally elevated to Number Two position in Congress shortly, did not intervene in the meeting, except for a one-line in response to a member’s insistence on emerging disquiet in Jammu and Kashmir over killings of two Sarpanch. According to Dwivedi, “Rahulji ne kaha, iis par hume dhyan dena chaiye (Rahulji said, we should give this our attention)”.
There was also no clamor for Rahul Gandhi taking a bigger role in the party. Perhaps it is an accepted fact now that it is imminent, and Congressmen are waiting patiently for the big moment instead of demanding it.