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Fight as one, Sonia tells flock

New Delhi, May 9 (PTI): Against the backdrop of the electoral setback and impending assembly elections in some states, Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday sent a strong message to her partymen that they must shed “all manner of factional behaviour”.

In her first address to the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) after the electoral setbacks in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Goa, she said that unity and discipline was the key to success in future electoral battles.

”We must all shed all manner of factional behaviour, and fight as one disciplined team at all levels. That will be the single-most important factor to decide whether we win or lose. People look to us--but we need to show them our commitment and our unity if we are to convert this sentiment into electoral victories,” Sonia said.

She sought to gloss over the loss in Uttar Pradesh where the campaign was led by her son Rahul saying that Congress had increased its vote share “quite considerably”. The Congress got a vote share of 11.6 per cent and won 28 seats in the March elections this year compared to the 8.6 per cent vote share and 22 seats in the 2007 polls.

With a series of state elections approaching, Sonia said the partymen “must draw upon lessons of the previous polls”. While Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh are scheduled to have assembly elections this year-end, polls are due in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan next year.

Without naming BJP-ruled Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, she gave clear hints that the Congress would take up the issue of corruption aggressively there in the wake of CAG and Lokayukta reports.

Sonia's remarks on unity and discipline in the party assumes significance as they have come ahead of a reshuffle of the AICC and several states units to refurbish them ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha poll battle.

Commenting on the poll results in the five states including Uttar Pradesh, Sonia conceded there is “much work to be done” in UP and several other states and that Congress did not perform as well as expected.

”In Uttar Pradesh, even though we did not perform as well as we had hoped to, we increased our vote share quite considerably and were seen as a serious player for the first time in 22 years. Of course there is much work to be done there as in other states,” she said.

She described as “very disappointing” the results in Punjab and Goa.

The CPP meeting has come a few days after a high-power committee of the party led A K Antony that reviewed the party's performance in the five states, submitted its report to Sonia.

Sonia also asked partymen to project the works of the party led government at the Centre.

The Congress President also chose the occasion to flag urgency over the food security and land acquitisiton bill, which are yet to be brought before Parliament in the backdrop of reservations of allies like NCP and Trinamool Congress.

”On our part, we must do all we can to ensure that the legislative process is not unduly delayed. Whatever motives may guide the Opposition, we have but one singular duty and that is to the people who have elected us...,” Sonia said.

Seeking to dismiss the critics of NCTC, she said that Congress and the government were “fully committed” to strengthening federalism.

”But there are Centre-state issues of major national importance-such as fighting terrorism or dealing with Left-wing extremism-where the Centre cannot shirk its responsibilty,” she said.

With Narendra Modi's claims of development apparently weighing on her mind, Sonia told partymen to “expose the hollow claims of opposition-rule state governments”.

“Mis-governance and corruption have been widespread in some of these states as revealed by CAG and Lokayukta reports,” she said at a time when there has been indications that the Congress would hit Modi with the corruption stick this time unlike in the past when it had raked up “communal” politics”.