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Congress to make India a superpower

The Congress plenary which ended on Monday pledged not to sideline social development. The Congress 'Mahakumbh'

india Updated: Jan 24, 2006 01:08 IST

The Congress on Monday ended its first delegates conference since coming to power about two years ago, with a pledge to rebuild itself in the country's vast and populous northern region where it once held sway.

The pledge was made by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in separate but stirring speeches that enthused about 20,000 delegates from across the country.

In her concluding remarks at the Congress' 82nd plenary session, Sonia Gandhi reminded delegates that the party could face any challenge through the "unity and resolve" of its workers.

Preparing her party for upcoming assembly elections in five states -- West Bengal, Kerala, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry -- Sonia Gandhi asked party cadres to listen to ground realities and to get connected to the grass-roots workers to feel the heartthrob of the country.

The three-day plenary session, held at GMC Balayogi stadium in Gachibowli village on the outskirts of Hyderabad, witnessed the emergence of Rahul Gandhi as the new star of the country's oldest party.

The plenary vowed that the coalition government led by the Congress would implement promises made by the party and make India a superpower without sidelining social development.

"Together we can face any challenges as deep as the ocean and as high as the sky," Sonia Gandhi said amid loud applause and slogan shouting from the crowd.

"We are not in power in many states. We have to be aggressive and stand for the causes of common men to face the challenges there," she said, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and others heard her with attention.

"Returning to power in northern India is very important for the Congress party. No magic wand will work. We have to make our efforts. It will be a long and difficult struggle for us," said Sonia Gandhi.

The delegates, however, left disappointed as Gandhi refrained from making any promises on inducting Rahul into the senior leadership, a demand raised by many party workers.

Earlier in the day, Rahul Gandhi politely but firmly rejected appeals to become a member of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), saying he was still a learner in politics.

Rahul, 35, whose debut speech at the party meet created a stir, too asked party members to brood over what had happened in the northern belt.

The Congress has become an also ran in the Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where until the late 1980s it used to be the dominant force, winning a majority of the Lok Sabha seats.

The plenary session on Monday passed four resolutions -- on political, economic, international affairs, and agriculture and poverty alleviation -- without any major amendments to the draft that had been presented by the different subject committees.

In her speech in the morning, Sonia Gandhi, speaking in a mixture of English and Hindi, reiterated her commitment to the common minimum programme (CMP) of the United Progressive Alliance.

Admitting that she was aware of the workers' disappointment over diminishing opportunities in a coalition, she said: "But coalition does not mean abdication of party building.

"There is no doubt in my mind that though we run coalition governments, we must at the same time strengthen our party at all levels."

Sonia Gandhi also urged her colleagues to steer politics away from money and muscle power and to avoid a pompous lifestyle.

"We will have to take stringent action against those who misuse politics for self-progress," she said amid loud applause from delegates.

"The lifestyle of many of our colleagues has been very pompous. They conduct weddings and birthdays in such an ostentatious manner that it pains me a lot," Sonia Gandhi said. "It appears that they are making fun of our commitment to the poor."

She clarified that her party would also fight elections against its Left allies in the states where they are a dominant force.

First Published: Jan 23, 2006 12:45 IST