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Sonia nudge for party-govt ‘balance’
Rahul points to past for change

New Delhi, Nov. 9: Sonia Gandhi today asked the government to create an environment that would make an election win possible, and Rahul Gandhi tried to convince Congress leaders that the party had the strength and skill to face the daunting challenges.

At the daylong party session at Surajkund, the Prime Minister argued that good economic policies were crucial to sound politics and said welfare programmes could not be sustained without high growth and reduction of the high subsidy bills.

The message that came out of the session was the need for a balance between sound administration and electoral compulsions.

Rahul said the Congress was capable of working out this difficult synergy, recalling how the party had carried out bank nationalisation as well as economic liberalisation.

Pointing to the veteran A.K. Antony, he said: “There are leaders who have seen several paradigm shifts in the Congress’s approach. We have faced different challenges in different times and managed to come out triumphant.”

Sonia too advocated a balancing act, acknowledging the party would have to be mindful of the government’s imperatives while working out strategies to win elections.

“Both the government and the party have their own perspectives, both legitimate, but at times we need to strike a balance. Constant communication between the two will help,” she said in her opening remarks.

While some leaders expressed frustration at the state of affairs, others complained of government apathy towards the party’s needs.

Senior leaders such as Antony wanted the government to move cautiously on economic reforms. Kamal Nath felt the party was not prepared to face elections.

Although Sonia stressed the need to deepen the initiatives to improve the plight of the poor, weaker sections and minorities, she appreciated the government’s compulsions in taking decisions that mounted a financial burden on the common man.

“The global recession has made things difficult for us in the past few years. Manmohan Singh’s leadership saved us up to a great extent while many more prosperous countries fell on evil days. We must explain the nature of these challenges to the people and the rationale behind these tough decisions,” Sonia said.

The entire proceedings were recorded — a first in the party’s history — because Sonia wanted a comprehensive report on the discussions and concrete follow-up actions.

She said a coordination committee had been set up to draw up the strategy for the next general election, still 18 months away. Three sub-groups with specific tasks have also been formed. These committees’ reports will be discussed at the Chintan Baithak, to be held early next year.

Most of the speakers reaffirmed Sonia’s position on greater coordination between the government and the party, arguing that ministers should not be unsympathetic to the party’s electoral compulsions.

Some leaders wanted sharper responses to civil society activists and a forceful articulation that even politicians were committed to the larger public good. Some felt that the government’s welfare initiatives had not been properly explained to the people.

“We should be proud of our achievements. Our unmatched schemes have changed India. Our opponents are creating confusion about our politics, morality and policies,” Sonia said.

“We have to rebut their false propaganda. They want to grab power by hook or by crook, even if the struggle for democratic values, equality, freedom and secularism gets weakened because of their lust.”

Some speakers, without mentioning Narendra Modi, expressed concern at the attempt to poison young minds and asked for institutional and political initiatives to underline the importance of the secular ethos.

Sonia and Rahul stressed the need for a more responsive government. Rahul hailed the positive changes brought about by the RTI Act and advocated “an open and transparent system” that would bolster the people’s faith in parliamentary democracy.

He also asked for quick administrative responsiveness, as delays in decision-making led to frustration among the people.

PM dinner

Later in the evening, the Prime Minister hosted a dinner for Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh at his residence. He will host all UPA allies on Sunday, ahead of the winter session of Parliament.