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HindustanTimes Mon,29 Dec 2014

Cong 'chitan shivir' begins, to plan out 2014 polls

Aurangzeb Naqshbandi, Hindustan Times  Jaipur, January 18, 2013
First Published: 00:51 IST(18/1/2013) | Last Updated: 10:39 IST(18/1/2013)

Over the next three days, the Congress party will reassess its position on critical issues facing the country and chalk out its response to the changing political and economic circumstances.

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However, coming in the backdrop of the heightened tension with Pakistan along the Line of Control and the brutal gang rape of a student in Delhi, the focus of the two-day ‘chintan shivir’ from Friday —  followed by a day-long AICC session on Sunday – will essentially be to formulate strategies for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi will set the agenda for the discussions, which will mainly revolve around critical issues of political alliance, price rise, economic reforms (including the cut on subsidies) and the new phenomenon of social media and flash mob protests.

The other key issues at the conclave, which will be conducted nine years after a similar camp at Shimla in 2003, include the demand for smaller states (particularly Telangana) and how to aggressively counter charges of corruption posed by the opposition.

Gandhi has formed five groups to discuss emerging political as well as socio-economic challenges, India and the world, organisational strength and empowerment of women. About 350 invitees – one third of them from the Youth Congress – will be closeted for two days to discuss these five subjects.

Apparently sulking over his exit from the cabinet, former external affairs minister SM Krishna has opted out of the group on India’s foreign relations – citing prior engagements in Vietnam. He would be replaced by commerce minister Anand Sharma.

Senior general secretary Janardan Dwivedi on Wednesday clarified that papers on the five subjects should not be treated as party views, but mere suggestions. However, the consensus on the issues would form part of the draft Jaipur Declaration, which would be adopted by the AICC meeting attended by more than 1,000 delegates.

Apart from the Congress president, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and general secretary Rahul Gandhi will address the AICC session on Sunday. They are also expected to participate in group discussions for a brief period.

Though Rahul’s imprints on the Jaipur conclave are visible, the 42-year-old Gandhi scion still has not shown any inclination towards formally assuming the number two position in the party. But with his appointment in November last year as head of the six-member coordination committee for 2014 polls, Rahul has formally been put in charge of the party’s campaign for the next Lok Sabha elections. Ahmed Patel, Janardan Dwivedi, Digvijaya Singh, Madhusudan Mistry and Jairam Ramesh are its other members.

While the absence of President Pranab Mukherjee is going to be widely felt at the meet, Antony is expected to fulfill his role.


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