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Sonia’s budget tips for poll-bound states

New Delhi, Jan. 27: Congress president Sonia Gandhi might offer a set of guidelines for the election year budgets of party-ruled governments in the poll-bound states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi.

Indications to this effect are available at the Congress headquarters even as Sonia is about to conclude her ongoing exercise of making organisational and governmental changes in the four states that go to polls in November.

According to informed sources, Sonia is likely to ask senior working committee member Pranab Mukherjee and the AICC general secretaries in charge of these states to sit with the chief ministers for budget consultations. While Ambika Soni is the in-charge general secretary for Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, Kamal Nath holds charge of Delhi.

Sonia, the sources said, is keen that the election year budgets of the four states send a clear political message favourable for the party’s re-election.

The details of what is being termed differently as “soft budget” and “populist budget” will vary from state to state, the sources added.

Sonia took up the budget issue at the last meeting of the Congress chief ministers’ conclave in Mt Abu. The move to ask central leaders to vet the budgets is the follow-up action. Apart from the focus on the budget, Sonia has involved central leaders to monitor the functioning of the Congress governments.

One of the mechanisms is the manifesto implementation committee for each state. Soni heads the committee in the three states under her charge. Kamal Nath heads the Delhi team. Former finance minister Manmohan Singh heads an umbrella panel at the central level which plans the party’s poll strategies for different states. Sources said Singh’s team is providing crucial inputs to the Congress governments on economic and financial matters. Sonia has also begun constituting an apex coordination panel for each of the four states.

While she constituted the Rajasthan panel yesterday, the teams for the other three states are likely to be set up soon. Apparently, she wants to extend this arrangement for all Congress-ruled states. However, when contacted, party secretary on economic affairs Jairam Ramesh on Saturday sought to downplay the exercise. “We do not believe in back-seat driving,” he said, asked about the move to help the election-going states prepare their budget.

With Sonia making organisational and governmental changes in Rajasthan, no more big changes are on the cards in the four states before polls, except perhaps the appointment of a new PCC chief for Chhattisgarh.

However, minor organisational changes cannot be ruled out in Delhi.

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