Friday, November 9, 2012

Government’s record will be under scanner at Surajkund conclave

NEW DELHI, November 9, 2012

The Congress has billed Friday's meeting of its top government and party leaders as a samvad baithak — a dialogue — but general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said on Thursday that the daylong discussions would see some seedhi baat or plain-speaking.

With the government's record over the past three years and five months the special focus of the meeting, the party looks set to ask tough questions of colleagues in the administration in the first exercise of its kind. For, it is on the basis of the UPA's report card that the Congress will go to the polls in mid-2014.

Mr. Dwivedi said at a special briefing that the party would question the government on how far it was able to implement the manifesto with which it went to the people in 2009, and how much remained to be done, official sources said the meeting should be seen as an effort at coordination. "The Prime Minister will explain government policies and how they are being implemented. He will talk about the recent economic decisions, why they were taken and what impact they have had," these sources said. "He will try and dispel the misgivings people have about economic reforms." And Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram — in response to a question on Friday's meeting — told journalists that the government's achievements had been "quite impressive."

Indeed, on Thursday, ministers — especially those with the social sector portfolios — were arming themselves with a list of their successes and the obstacles in the way, as they braced themselves for Friday's meeting.

The samvad baithak, to be held at the tourist destination of Surajkund on the outskirts of the national capital, comes close on the heels of a massive rally the party organised on the Ramlila Grounds here on Sunday, which endorsed the government's recent economic decisions. But that was an occasion to rally the troops and make a show of strength. By contrast, the closed-door meeting on Friday will allow the participants an opportunity for candour.

Beleaguered by charges of corruption, policy paralysis, and whimsical allies, the government has tried in recent weeks to shake off its inertia with a series of economic decisions, a Cabinet reshuffle and then a political rally. Friday's dialogue, which will see both stocktaking and strategy-making, is part of this effort to get its house in order ahead of what will be a difficult session of Parliament, beginning on November 22. The organisational revamp, meanwhile, appears to have been put off for a while, with no consensus on what role should be assigned to general secretary Rahul Gandhi.

Mr. Dwivedi said the meeting on Friday would be attended by 70 leaders, 23 Cabinet Ministers and 12 Ministers of State with independent charge, and party president Sonia Gandhi and the entire Congress Working Committee. Interestingly, barring the Prime Minister and the Congress president, all participants will be transported to the venue by bus.
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