The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia tells her ministers to be party-friendly

New Delhi, March 29: Congress president Sonia Gandhi today ticked off her chief ministers and ministers for neglecting the party and its grassroots workers and cautioned them that the government belonged to the party, not the other way round.

“In Congress-ruled states, the district and block Congress office-bearers have expectations from the government. The government belongs to the party and not the party to the government,” she said.

“The government has to listen to the party. MLAs and MPs have to listen to the party. Whenever ministers are on tour, they must visit party offices and interact with party workers.”

Sonia’s terse words to party workers holding government posts and MPs and MLAs came in her concluding remarks this evening during the two-day convention of Congress district and block chiefs here.

With a few exceptions made for those who hold dual positions, party chief ministers, ministers, MLAs and MPs were not invited to the grassroots convention.

Sonia had obviously taken the complaints of the district and block presidents seriously. Several grassroots leaders had yesterday said that it was easier for them to meet the party chief than ministers in their states or the chief minister.

The delegates from Maharashtra and Delhi were particularly sharp in their criticism of the Congress governance and ministers. They said there was no communication between the ministers and them.

During the course of today’s session, Sonia went to the extent of speaking to Maharashtra chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, reportedly drawing his attention to the criticism by the state’s block delegates.

Emphasising the primacy of the party and its workers in re-establishing the Congress’ supremacy in national polity, Sonia said only a few leaders could get party tickets to represent the people in legislatures and the Parliament.

So those fortunate few who hold positions of responsibility should learn to respect party workers, she said.

Sonia hoped the two-day exercise would go a long way in galvanising the Congress at the grassroots level and help it face the challenges of Assembly and general polls, scheduled later this year and the next.

“The Congress will go from strength to strength from here on. This exercise is only an initial step in that direction,” she said.

Congressmen were urged to remain faithful to the party, by way of commitment to its ideology of secularism and the cause of weaker sections of the society. “If the party sticks to its fundamentals, the 21st Century will again belong to the party.”

In an attempt to underline the Congress’ commitment to the empowerment of women, Sonia urged the youth to act like soldiers and stand up to atrocities against women and the Scheduled Castes and Tribes, minorities and other weaker sections.

Sonia asked state and district Congress committees to institute an annual award, to be called Priyadarshini award, to honour women achievers in all states and districts.

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