The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia tells party who’s boss

Shimla, July 7: If anyone had doubts over who called the shots in the Congress, Sonia Gandhi today set them at rest. But not before a little sermon on democracy.

Talking about the decision-making process in the party, Sonia said “ultimately, the decision is mine”, but added that “by nature, I not only want to do the right thing but also want to do a thing right”.

The Congress chief’s assertion, at the opening session of the party’s three-day brainstorming camp here, was an unequivocal reply to questions she was asked a month ago in Srinagar on the discordant voices regarding her leadership.

The queries came in the wake of veteran leader Arjun Singh’s comment on intense faction rivalry within the organisation which, in effect, was a roundabout way of saying that all was not well in the party.

At that time, Sonia had been evasive. Today, she left no room for doubt. Her message was clear: she was the boss but one who drew her strength from ordinary party workers and that whatever her lieutenants in the AICC — some of whom Arjun Singh is widely believed to have targeted — did was with her full knowledge.

Sonia warned the over 250 leaders attending the vichar manthan shivir against getting involved in activities that could harm the party in the run-up to the Assembly elections later this year and the parliamentary polls next year. Four of the states going to polls are under Congress rule.

“Party unity has to be sustained. All of us must think of nothing else but the party, subordinating personal egos and ambitions to the larger cause of the Congress,” she said, emphasising that success can come only through unity.

While asserting her leadership, Sonia also sought to qualify it by saying she was democratic and followed a consensual approach to issues. She said she makes it a point to meet as many people as possible within and outside the party to seek their opinion and consult experienced colleagues before taking a decision.

Sonia said her five-year run as party chief has been satisfying, though “extraordinary circumstances” brought her into “active political life”.

She pointed that when she assumed the reins, the Congress had just six chief ministers and was part of the government in another state. Today, the party has 15 chief ministers and is a partner in the government in two states, she added, attributing the success to the “joint effort” of her partymen.

Outlining her priorities for the party, Sonia said she intends to bring about “generational changes” in the organisational set-up at all levels so that the Congress can mirror the “generational changes” taking place so rapidly in the country.

She said party seniors should not “monopolise” positions in the organisation and repeatedly talked about promoting younger leaders up the ranks.

Her objective, Sonia asserted, was to make the Congress the catalyst for injecting a new political culture.

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