New Delhi, Sept. 24: Sonia Gandhi has called a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) tomorrow morning, apparently to explain the government’s compulsions for taking tough economic decisions.
Congress sources said the CWC would extend unambiguous support to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who himself took the extraordinary step of addressing the nation to defend difficult decisions like the hike in the diesel price, limiting the number of subsidised LPG cylinders and allowing FDI in multi-brand retail.
Sonia does not want any confusion about the party’s attitude as there are misgivings about the FDI decision among a section of the leaders.
But the sudden decision to call the meeting of the highest decision-making body of the party surprised many. Some leaders wondered if something else was also on the agenda.
CWC meetings are usually scheduled in advance but members were informed only this evening. The meeting will start at 8.45 in the morning as Rahul Gandhi has to leave for Jharkhand on a two-day tour of the state.
The meeting is taking place at a time there is unanimity on giving Rahul a larger role in the party and some leaders wondered if the demand for early action on this front would be reflected in the CWC.
Asked about the agenda of the meeting, a senior AICC functionary said: “The present political situation will be discussed.” He added that discussions would take place on the basis of opening remarks made by the Congress president.
A meeting of general secretaries has also been called at 8am at 10 Janpath. This is unusual as CWC meetings are rarely preceded by a meeting of office-bearers.
Asked if something serious had created the need for such an emergency meeting, a senior leader said: “The current political situation is in itself very serious; a UPA ally has walked out of the government and there is widespread protest against its decisions. The party has to assess the implications.”
The Prime Minister also appears to be keeping in mind the political implications. The first question Singh asked when he met Bengal PCC president Pradip Bhattacharya today was the impact on the Congress in the state.
Without mentioning the Trinamul Congress or Mamata Banerjee, Singh explained that he didn’t have any option as the government had waited far too long for a consensus to evolve.
Bhattacharya reportedly said: “We are jubilant. There is nothing to worry.” But the Prime Minister is not known to be carried away by rosy projections without empirical evidence.
Bhattacharya added that the people of Bengal know that only Calcutta and Asansol would have qualified for FDI in retail and hence there was no need to create a turmoil even if the chief minister was opposed to the decision.
The Prime Minister promised all possible financial help to Bengal when the PCC chief sought to know about reports that the state would now suffer discrimination owing to Trinamul’s conduct.
Bhattacharya told The Telegraph: “I requested the PM to ensure there is no discrimination as the people should not suffer and he said ‘whatever help was promised would be given’. No project in Bengal will be affected because of lack of funds.”
Bhattacharya told the Prime Minister the separation with Trinamul had created circumstances for the resurgence of the Congress. He, however, sought adequate representation from Bengal in the Union cabinet as that would enable the party to counter Mamata in an effective manner.
Several other Bengal leaders are camping in Delhi to thank the high command for the bold decision and to warn against evolving any understanding with the Left.
Manas Bhunia, a former minister in the Mamata government, said: “This is a repeat of the 1989 phenomenon when anti-Congressism was at its worst. Mamata is speaking the language of the BJP and the CPM. Who else was saying Manmohan is selling the country? Another element has combined with the Left and the BJP as Mamata is giving the same slogan, making similar charges.”
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari, however, refused to attack Mamata and said it would be wrong to say that good decisions could not be taken by the government because of her opposition for three years. He blasted the BJP for its opportunistic opposition to the FDI decision and condemned threats aimed at prospective investors.
“The threat by the BJP that a change of government can imperil the investments as other parties won’t support the policy is verbal lumpenism,” Tewari said.