The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong chants secrecy mantra

Shimla, July 7: Sonia Gandhi steered clear of the topic, but the issue of alliances for the big battle next year dominated the first day’s deliberations at the Congress brainstorming session that the party chief flagged off here.

A large number of delegates — including AICC office-bearers, state unit and legislature party leaders and chief ministers — felt the party should treat the issue more as a matter of strategy and tactics and, therefore, should not reveal its cards in a hurry.

Sources said a majority of the delegates in one of the five panels, which were formed by Sonia to deliberate on different topics, argued that the party should emphasise more on post-poll alliances. More so since some of the obvious national-level allies like the Left parties were the Congress’ main adversaries in states like Kerala and Bengal.

The sources, however, said the views of individual delegates would not necessarily be the collective view of the party which would be reflected in the final document that would be issued on Wednesday, the last day of the camp. An informal meeting of the working committee is likely to be held late tomorrow to finalise the document, they added.

The sources said a panel on social empowerment held an intense debate on the question of extending reservation to the private sector. They said several delegates made a strong case to make private sector reservation a policy line of the Congress.

An alternative view was also advocated. It is basically along the lines of Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh’s recent proposal for a diversity law which essentially promotes a socially diversified system of recruitment in the private sector through a set of government incentives and disincentives and not a mandatory reservation quota.

Senior leader Salman Khursheed said delegates in the social empowerment panel also debated on the desirability of providing reservation to economically deprived sections among Muslims in educational institutions on the lines of the existing arrangement in Karnataka and Kerala.

The party leadership has sought to maintain unusual secrecy about the whole proceedings. The position papers prepared on five different themes, which formed the basis of the panel discussions, have been kept a closely-guarded secret. The venue of the meet — Peter Hoff — overlooking the hill town was out of reach of media persons. Cecil Oberoi, the hotel where VIP delegates put up, has been cordoned off, too.

This is a huge departure from the relaxed atmosphere of the last brainstorming session at Panchmarhi five years ago.

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