The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Congress covers Shimla tracks
- Leak prompts rush to keep papers under wraps, restrict access to meet

New Delhi, July 4: A premature media leak of one of the preliminary drafts for the Shimla brainstorming has prompted the Congress high command to “modify” its formulation and issue strict instructions to maintain confidentiality.

“The instruction seems to have worked. We are pleasantly surprised that there is no media leak of the various position papers we have prepared for the brainstorming session,” said a party leader closely involved in preparation of the drafts.

Unusually, almost every leader involved in preparing and finalising the five position papers for the session have been tight-lipped and extremely reluctant to talk to the media. This came about after a draft on social empowerment was leaked.

Sources said the leak figured in one of the meetings of the Pranab Mukherjee-led coordination committee entrusted with finalising the papers, in which it was agreed that nobody would go public about the contents.

“After all, these are only working papers for initiating debate and discussion at the three-day session, the outcome of which would be distilled in the form of a final document,” a source said.

Apparently, the whole draft paper was “modified” after the leak. The incident also prompted the Congress to take a leaf out of the BJP’s recent brainstorming session near Mumbai.

Contrary to the initial plan and unlike the arrangement at Panchmarhi five years ago, media access to the brainstorming will be regulated.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s opening and closing remarks can be heard and viewed only a good distance away from the venue and on CCTV. Sources said the objective was to discourage media from “misreporting or reporting out of context discussions at the session”.

Party chief spokesman S. Jaipal Reddy, too, has been asked to address the media away from the venue and at the Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee office.

But the party leadership is not sure whether this will work. Unlike the BJP brainstorming, which only 27 top leaders attended, the Congress has invited close to 275 loyalists.

Would not some participants inadvertently share “their views” with media persons' wondered a leader.

He recalled what former party chief P.V. Narasimha Rao once reportedly told colleagues in the working committee after a meeting: “Should we brief the media at all' Because whether we do it or not, news persons get to know even minute details of the discussions from their sources.”

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