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Sonia sermon for absentee MPs

New Delhi, Dec. 7: Congress chief Sonia Gandhi today voiced concern over party MPs' 'poor attendance' in Parliament and at meetings of various House committees.

Pulling them up for inertia and indifference, Sonia said they should instead set an example for others. 'Poor attendance of members of other parties is no consolation to us,' she told a meeting of the Congress parliamentary party.

Sonia said though the winter session was a short one, several bills would be introduced in keeping with the commitments 'made in our manifesto and the common minimum programme'.

She urged members to offer their suggestions on the budget in time so that these could be properly examined. A meeting to discuss this could be arranged, she said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who spoke after Sonia, assured members that measures to contain petroleum prices would be taken soon.

He elaborated on the steps taken by the government to accelerate economic growth, because of which, he claimed, India had become a favoured investment destination.

Singh said India would in five years emerge as the fastest growing economy in the world.

Both Singh and Sonia expressed concern over the oil price hike. Sonia urged the MPs to educate people that escalating oil prices in world markets had forced the government to take painful decisions.

Expressing satisfaction over the party's victories in Arunachal Pradesh and Maharashtra, Sonia asked party workers not to be 'complacent' and work unitedly for similar success in upcoming polls in three states.

'We have elections coming up in three more states (Bihar, Haryana and Jharkhand) in the next three months. The momentum is clearly with us. But we cannot be complacent. Let us work unitedly so that we go from strength to strength,' she said.

On the party's membership drive, she sought cooperation of the members in implementing the 'action plan' circulated to state and district Congress committees after the last AICC session.

Sonia said the Centre would soon enact a model law to deal with communal violence and set up a commission to look into Centre-state relations.

'The government will soon enact a model comprehensive law to deal with communal violence, provide for uniform compensation for loss of lives, honour and property and for expeditious investigations.'

The Congress president said the government would also establish an administrative reforms commission. Laws would be amended to ensure equality for women, she said.

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