The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong eyes makeover

New Delhi, Oct. 13: The Congress is planning a profile makeover to regain its lost glory that could give competition to its ally, the Left.

Though not exactly a Left turn, the ruling party is out to make itself more attractive to the poor, the working class and the marginalised so that it can live up to the 'democratic, socialist republic' in the preamble to the Constitution.

The Congress thinktank feels that party chief Sonia Gandhi could be the catalyst to win back the party's old constituency, especially the have-nots and weaker sections.

So party strategists are reworking Indira Gandhi's success formula of 'garibi hatao', a slogan that was a hit among the poor.

'They (the Left) are no longer a people's party. While Sonia Gandhi is talking about a host of issues for the uplift of the downtrodden, they fight only for the employees,' said a Congress leader who is part of the thinktank.

'They don't talk about nutrition, female foeticide and the problems faced by the unorganised sector that constitute 90 per cent of the workforce,' he added.

The Congress is in no hurry to usurp the Left parties' political space but sources feel the latter is caught in a time warp and unable to grow beyond Bengal, Kerala and Tripura while the BJP is caught in ideological confusion and generational leadership crisis.

'They (the Left) are unable to grow beyond employees and trade unions. They are slowly losing their pro-poor image,' the Congress leader said.

Sonia, party sources said, would discuss the strategy in detail with party managers once the Maharashtra elections are out of the way.

They added that the ruling coalition's common minimum programme and Sonia's initiative in constituting the National Advisory Committee to oversee its implementation amply demonstrate her concern for good governance and empathy with the poor.

The party is backing foreign direct investment and selective disinvestment but the slogan is 'progress with a human face', the sources emphasised.

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