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Congress to have brainstorming on N-deal

The Nov 17 All India Congress Committee session in New Delhi will provide an occasion for Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi to hear first hand the views of second rung leaders from across the country.

india Updated: Nov 05, 2007 19:59 IST

At a time the government is facing uncertainty over the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, the Congress party is bracing for a brainstorming on the agreement and other contentious issues.

The Nov 17 All India Congress Committee (AICC) session in New Delhi will provide an occasion for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party president Sonia Gandhi to hear first hand the views of second rung leaders from across the country.

Congress sources admit that opinion within the party on the deal is divided although publicly the party is for signing the deal despite opposition from its Left allies as well as sections of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

"The AICC meeting will give a clear indication about the political situation," said a senior party leader.

It will be the first meeting of the AICC after the Hyderabad plenary in January 2006 and comes in the backdrop of unending frictions with the Left, which is opposed to the operationalisation of the nuclear deal.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led four-party Left bloc has asked Manmohan Singh to go by the "sense of the (parliament) house", which is expected to debate the deal when it meets for its winter session on Nov 15.

A section of Congress leaders do not want the national leadership to succumb to the Left, while others along with major allies have advised against risking the government for the nuclear agreement.

The party's highest decision-making body, the Congress Working Committee (CWC), is meeting here Wednesday to review the preparations and finalise the agenda for the AICC session.

The CWC meeting will also be the first for Sonia Gandhi's son and first time Rahul Gandhi, now a powerful general secretary in the party.

The CWC will again meet Nov 16 to clear the draft of a comprehensive resolution on the economic, political and foreign policy of the party. In a break with the past, there will only be one resolution - and not three separate ones.

The AICC session is also expected to lay a roadmap for the party as the government's stability is still in question and speculations of an early general election are still taking rounds.

The participants at the AICC are expected to discuss the controversial Ram Sethu - the row over the construction of a canal off Tamil Nadu that Hindu radicals say would damage the mythical bridge constructed by Lord Ram.

Congress leaders who privately admit that their preparations for general elections have begun hope that the AICC meeting would "rejuvenate" the party to face a possible snap poll.

"Although both the prime minister and the Congress president have played down the possibilities of early general elections, our preparations are getting into full swing," a CWC member told IANS.

The leader added that the results of the December elections in Gujarat would be crucial for the party's future moves.

"Whatever time we are getting before the elections should be used to reach the government's welfare schemes to people," the leader said.

Congress leader and Minister for Labour Oscar Fernandes said: "The AICC session will discuss strategies to reach the government's achievements to people and on how to strengthen the party."

The party is also planning to launch a training programme for its workers in the states immediately after the AICC session.