The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘Cutting edge’ lessons for Sonia flock

New Delhi, Nov. 5: Sonia Gandhi has invited apolitical experts to “sensitise” chief ministers of Congress-ruled states on national security, women empowerment, rehabilitation and public administration.

Former Intelligence Bureau director M.K. Narayanan, A. Shiv Kumar, whose Unesco-sponsored study on the state of women in India has been widely acclaimed, and Y.K. Alagh, a noted public administration guru, will address the chief ministers at Mount Abu.

Narayanan, Kumar and Alagh will lecture the chief ministers on how to fine-tune administration at the two-day conclave on November 8 and 9 in the Rajasthan hill resort. In-house experts like Manmohan Singh, Jairam Ramesh, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Salman Khurshid and K. Natwar Singh will also contribute their bit, addressing Digvijay Singh, Ashok Gehlot, Sheila Dikshit, Tarun Gogoi, Mukut Mithi, S.C. Jamir, A.K. Antony, S.M. Krishna, Ajit Jogi, Ibobi Singh, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Amarinder Singh, K. Rangaswamy and N.D. Tiwari.

Sources close to the Congress chief said she is determined to show that her party is a serious contender for the Delhi durbar and roped in the apolitical experts to provide a “cutting edge” to Congress-ruled states. “We need fresh ideas, innovative schemes. For instance, there is an image that the Congress does not accord high priority to national security vis-à-vis the BJP,” said a former Union minister involved with the conclave. The idea of engaging the former IB chief, he added, is to project that the party is concerned about internal security.

Congress leaders said the chief ministers were alive to the growing challenges in the security environment but the BJP’s propaganda had put them on the defensive. “Our idea is to de-link it with minorities’ rights and human rights. You can be alert, security conscious without violating human rights. That is the sum and substance of good governance,” said a party activist who had served in the armed forces.

Sonia is also keen on pushing through the issue of women’s empowerment beyond reservation in Parliament and Assemblies. Sources say she believes that unless women excel in industry, education, health and related areas, there cannot be overall development and, therefore, picked Shiv Kumar who has no political affiliation. “The idea is get an objective feedback and a roadmap on how to go about it. Even if we succeed in implementing 50 per cent of it, it would be path-breaking,” a Congress Working Committee member said.

Alagh was a Union minister in the United Front government but is known for his apolitical profile. Sources say Sonia has great respect for the former vice-chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University who is an expert on water management, rehabilitation and other areas.

Alagh is expected to provide vital inputs in disaster management, drought relief, flood control and water management, which have been playing havoc in many Congress-ruled states.

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