The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Weekend drama delays soul-search

New Delhi, Dec. 24: After the mass resignation fiasco, Sonia Gandhi seems in no mood to hold the promised poll-debacle debate.

It became almost certain today that the Congress Working Committee, which was to discuss the rout, will not meet this year. This is because the Pranab Mukherjee-headed committee, asked to probe the reasons for the drubbing, will not submit its report at least until December 29. The report, initially expected by December 16, was to be the basis of the CWC debate.

AICC sources indicated that the debate may never take place because of the Ambika Soni-led group’s abortive resignation drama. Instead, attention is being shifted to the revamp exercise.

According to sources, the Mukherjee panel will focus more on recommending strategies for next year’s Lok Sabha elections rather than get stuck in a “hair-splitting exercise” of analysing causes of the Assembly poll rout and fixing responsibility.

As Sonia herself told party MPs yesterday, she wants them to focus on preparing the party for the parliamentary polls.

The revamp apart, Sonia wants to set up a number of “poll management teams” at Lok Sabha constituency levels. The idea is to have in place a decentralised structure, with the responsibility being shared by AICC functionaries and the poll management teams.

Sonia, sources said, is expected to outline her plans when she addresses the party rally in Mumbai on Saturday. There are also expectations that she will make use of the rally to underline the importance the party will give to forging pre-poll alliances. “It is almost a settled issue within the party that pre-poll alliances are a must to face the Lok Sabha polls,” said a leader.

Apparently, the party has already established contact with the leadership of the DMK, which last week pulled out of the National Democratic Alliance.

Sources said Sonia might make up her mind on shuffling the party during the short yearend holiday she is apparently planning immediately after the rally. “She is likely to set in motion all the necessary changes in the party organisational structure from January 2,” said an AICC general secretary.

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