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Saubhadra Chatterji & Aurangzeb Naqshbandi, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, November 09, 2012
Union ministers and Congress leaders will take a bus to Surajkund on Friday to deliberate on the current political and economic situation in the country at the party’s day-long ‘samvad baithak’, or dialogue session. The travellers — around 70 — have to report to the Congress headquarters at 24, Akbar Road, at 8.30am to catch special buses. “This is the first time such an arrangement is made,” said a minister.

Apart from being a people-friendly gesture — separate convoys would have meant traffic snarls — the choice of transport is meant to drive home the message that at a time when the Centre is desperately pursuing austerity measures, the party is trying to cut its fuel bill.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi reportedly offered to take the bus, but the SPG found it “too risky”. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, who will set the tone for the brainstorming session, was also advised not to take the bus.

Singh’s address will explain the recent decisions taken by the government, their impact and how to dispel misgivings about the reforms policy.

Apart from identifying key gaps in the implementation of the 2009 manifesto, the session will also discuss its stand on coalition politics.

While the party decided to go it alone in Bihar, earlier this year in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections it joined hands with Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal. The failure of both experiments has put the party in a fix.

Rahul, a strong votary of the go-it-alone policy, has started visiting various parts of the country to rejuvenate the state units ahead of the 2014 polls.