'Reforms good, but party image still a worry'
Even as the Congress Working Committee (CWC) on Tuesday threw its weight behind the UPA's economic measures, some members raised the coal scam, saying the issue has dented the party's image and could also hurt its prospects in forthcoming polls in several states.
The central theme of the nearly two-hour meeting of the party's highest decision-making body was economic reforms, including allowing foreign investment in retail, and their political impact with Congress president Sonia Gandhi backing the measures and asserting there was no threat to the stability of the UPA government.Without taking any names, she said while one ally (Trinamool Congress) has left the UPA, two other allies (SP and BSP) have reiterated their outside support to the government.
Raising the coal scam, Dr Karan Singh sought strong action against those found guilty in the allocation as the Opposition was trying to exploit the issue to its benefit.
This, he said, would also send a strong message to the people that the Congress was tough those found guilty of any wrong doing.
An emotive PM Manmohan Singh later said the CBI was already looking into the matter.
Singh reiterated that he had done no wrong during his tenure of more than eight years and that he was ready to discuss the issue threadbare in Parliament but the Opposition ran away from a debate.
Apart from the PM, finance minister P Chidambaram also explained the rationale behind increasing diesel prices, putting a cap on subsidised LPG cylinders and allowing 51% foreign investment in multi-brand retail.
But some members asked the government to be sensitive to small traders and allay the fears of the poor people given that the party has to face polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
Ajit Jogi said the government was unable to make the common man understand the logic behind such measures. Jogi also suggested that the party should fight the 2014 elections under Rahul Gandhi's leadership.
Rahul intervened briefly when Gulchain Singh Charak raised the issue of militant attacks on panchayat members in J&K, saying it was a "serious matter which needs attention".