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Soul-search & strategy on Sonia palette

New Delhi, Dec. 18: After lying low for four days after the Gujarat debacle, Sonia Gandhi has begun an introspection exercise to chalk strategy for the forthcoming Assembly polls and plan an organisational revamp to restore her grip over the party.

Tomorrow, senior Congress leader Manmohan Singh will chair a “strategy session” for the coming Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya.

Among other things, Singh will focus on the party’s strategy on how to “fine-tune” its response towards national security and the Hindutva plank.

The Congress feels it lost Gujarat because the BJP and Sangh parivar outfits succeeded in establishing a “wrong” connection between secularism and anti-national activities. The party think-tank perceives the need to aggressively counter that “false notion” which has gained currency after last year’s September 11 World Trade Center strike and the December 13 attack on Parliament that the Congress’ emphasis on secularism results in weaker response towards national security.

Apart from preparing a theoretical response, Sonia managers have a few “practical suggestions” for states headed for elections. Henceforth, the leadership will not tolerate any communal or ethnic disturbance in any Congress-ruled state.

It is a veiled warning to Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and his counterparts Digvijay Singh in Madhya Pradesh and Vilasrao Deshmukh in Maharashtra.

The party chief will address the Congress Parliamentary Party’s general body tomorrow and MPs are anxious to know how the leadership plans to tackle the rise of Hindutva forces.

Sonia is expected to talk at length on Gujarat and how Narendra Modi succeeded in generating a “violence-driven” verdict in his favour. The premise is based on the statistical record that the BJP did well in all districts and areas that had witnessed communal rioting. The party MPs would be asked to maintain greater vigil.

In another development, Sonia summoned 20-odd MLAs from Uttar Pradesh to 10 Janpath for a “pep talk”. The meeting came in the wake of reports that a section of the party MLAs in that state were toying with the idea of joining hands with chief minister Mayavati.

The legislators, however, iterated their “unflinching” loyalty and sought Priyanka Gandhi’s services in the state. The development amounts to a virtual no-confidence in the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee’s ability to revive the party in the politically significant state.

All eyes are now on Sonia and whether she will undertake organisational revamp to tone up the Congress.

There are some AICC general secretaries holding more than one posts and charge of many states. For election going states, the Congress chief plans to appoint “coordinators” to lessen the burden of some of these functionaries, but in the party circles the move is seen as Sonia’s way of clipping the wings of Ambika Soni, Kamal Nath, Ahmad Patel and others. If Ahmad is removed, Ghulam Nabi Azad may become the new AICC general secretary.

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