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Sonia makes Congress battle ready

Sonia Gandhi on Friday put her party in a battle preparedness mode, while Rahul Gandhi — expected to lead the 2014 Lok Sabha poll campaign — asked leaders to accept the "paradigm shift" in politics and economy. Aurangzeb Naqshbandi and Saubhadra Chatterji report. Talking points

delhi Updated: Nov 10, 2012 09:07 IST

Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday formally put the party in a battle preparedness mode, while Rahul Gandhi - widely expected to lead the campaign for the next Lok Sabha elections - called for adapting and accepting the "paradigm shift" in politics and economy.

Rahul, who is expected to take up a larger role in the party soon, said reforms were necessary to meet the "aspirations of youth."

Sonia's message to both the Congress and the government at a day-long Samvad Baithak (dialogue session) was clear -- work cohesively to ensure a renewed mandate for the party in the next general elections, scheduled for 2014.

In the closed-door meeting of 70 Congress ministers and functionaries, around 40 spoke, raising issues such as human face of reforms and battling the negative perception about the party.

Sonia announced setting up of a coordination committee with three sub-groups that will ensure greater interaction between the government and the party and not restrict it to major policy decisions only, in the run-up to the polls.

"We all are members of one family," the Congress chief said, setting the tone for the deliberations.

Pointing out that some colleagues had reservations over certain decisions of the government and their timings, she directed the ministers to listen to party workers, interact with them while visiting states, especially those ruled by opposition parties, and strive hard to fulfill all the promises in the 2009 poll manifesto.

Sonia Gandhi attends the central ministers and Congress Working Committee members meeting in Surajkund. AFP

"Many in the party were dissatisfied over the way ministers were not giving due attention to their suggestions and concerns," she said.

For party workers, her advice was to understand the government's compulsions in taking hard decisions because of which the common man faced difficulties, in an obvious reference to hike in diesel prices and putting a cap on subsidised gas cylinders.

"The challenge before us now is to tell the people about the reasons which forced us to take the decisions," the Congress president said.

The brainstorming session came four days after the Congress party's show of strength at a amass rally in Delhi's Ramlila Maidan on November 4 and here too she praised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for helping the country stave off to a large extent the effects of the global economic slowdown.

Rahul, who along with his mother and other party colleagues took a bus ride to Surajkund on Delhi outskirts despite security concerns raised by the SPG, made a strong pitch for transparency in governance.

Referring to the "new transparency revolution" brought in by the Right to Information (RTI) act, he stressed the need for change to respond to new challenges.

"Change is the need of the hour and change happens from time to time. It is the same Congress that pushed for nationalisation of banks and it is the same Congress which liberalised economy," Rahul told the meeting.