The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong to Cong Inc, courtesy Sonia

New Delhi, Nov. 6: Sonia Gandhi is determined to push through corporate culture in the country’s oldest political party.

At the two-day Congress chief ministers’ council in Mount Abu beginning on Friday, accountability, sleek power-point presentation, interactive sessions, inter-personnel relations, group cohesiveness, quality management, organisational and group effectiveness, and leadership effectiveness will be the buzzwords.

The 14 chief ministers of the party have been asked to account for all the work accomplished since the Guwahati conclave in April this year. Their work will be analysed and scrutinised by “experts” consisting of both in-house Congress leaders and “outsiders” like Y.K. Alagh, M.K. Narayanan, Ravi Parthasathy and A.K. Shiv Kumar.

The chief ministers have been asked to cut the flab in their reports. They have also been cautioned against word-play or juggling of statistics. Instead, the chief ministers have been directed to be crisp, to-the-point, brief and treat their presentations with objectivity.

Congress leaders involved with the Mount Abu exercise said the AICC chief was less than satisfied with the performance of many chief ministers. She is of the view that there is need to do a lot more than what has been done.

Sonia also wants them to strengthen group cohesiveness, share experiences and resources. Sources close to Sonia, however, maintained that the leadership was averse to the idea of changing chief ministers. Instead, she wanted them to tone up administration and learn from “experts”.

With general elections inching closer, Sonia is keen to tone up functioning of Congress-ruled states to overcome the anti-incumbency factor. According to her, unless the states governed by the Congress succeed in projecting themselves as “model states”, the party’s performance in the Lok Sabha would not improve.

At present, the Congress has 113 seats in the 545-member Lok Sabha but governs 14 states. In addition, it shares power in three other states, namely Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar and Meghalaya.

The two-day conclave at Mount Abu has been divided into four sessions. Economist Y.K. Alagh will speak soon after the Congress president’s inaugural speech on rural development, decentralisation of cooperatives, employment generation, drought relief and agriculture. The session will then be thrown open for interaction and the Congress chief ministers would be expected to raise queries. “The idea is to allow the chief ministers to learn and even seek clarifications on seemingly mundane issues,” a close aide of Sonia said.

The post-lunch session on Day One is to be handled by A.K. Shiv Kumar, who will speak on women’s empowerment, health and education. Shiv Kumar is currently adviser to the Unicef.

On the concluding day, Ravi Parthasathy will focus on infrastructure — road, power and water management. The last session will be conducted by former director of intelligence bureau M.K. Narayanan on law and order and security environment.

Narayanan will focus on effective security system with a humane face.

On Saturday, Sonia will address a press conference in Mount Abu, her second one this year. She had addressed the media in Guwahati in April. For some inexplicit reasons, the Congress chief has avoided meeting the media in Delhi. In 1999, she had interacted with the press while releasing the party manifesto at the AICC headquarters but after that, there has been no press conference.

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