Maintain identity in states led by UPA allies: Sonia
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Maintain identity in states led by UPA allies: Sonia

Gandhi says the Cong is deeply committed to the UPA, but this does not stop the party from maintaining a distinctive identity, reports Saroj Nagi.

india Updated: Nov 28, 2006 22:36 IST
Saroj Nagi

The Congress' commitment to a coalition experiment at the Centre notwithstanding, the party is keen to come to power on its own.

On Tuesday, Sonia Gandhi exhorted her MPs to strengthen the organisation even in states ruled by the UPA allies and ensure that the party maintains its distinctive identity there.

"The UPA is a coalition to which we are all deeply committeed. But this does not in any way mean that strengthening of our organisation in the states ruled by our allies takes a back seat. We as a party must strive our utmost to maintain our distinctive identity in these states," she said while addressing the Congress parliamentary party meeting where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was also present.

The task is seen as imperative as the Manmohan Singh government completed half of its five-year term this month and the party gears up for elections early next year in Uttar Pradesh and in Congress-ruled Manipur, Uttaranchal and Punjab.

Sonia outlined two immediate tasks for her MPs in this regard. The first was to "consolidate and closely follow" the implementation of the government's various flagship programmes and propagate the Congress-led combine's initiatives in their respective constituencies and states.

The second was a directive to the CPP to organise an interaction during this session with Finance Minister P Chidambaram on the forthcoming budget.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister PR Dasmunsi and CPP officebearers will meet on Wednesday to work out the modalities of this interaction. A mix of 50-odd MPs, who are articulate and regular in attending House proceedings, is being drawn up for such interactions. There is no official word on it, but Rahul Gandhi is expected to find a place in the list.

During their interaction with the Finance Minister - and perhaps with other nodal ministries dealing with the flagship programmes - the members are expected to raise and discuss core issues.

While at it, Dasmunsi also hopes to ensure floor coordination of UPA'a allies and supporting parties through breakfast meetings, inviting groups of three and four parties every day to ensure that adversaries like the DMK and the MDMK do not share the same table.

Besides the eight constituents, which are part of the government, there are 16 parties, including the four Left parties, which extend outside support.

The AIADMK has lately been talking about giving issue-based support to the UPA while the stand of the National Conference remains ambiguous.

In her speech, Sonia claimed that the government's efforts to address the problems of farmers are beginning to make an impact. She recalled that the Nainital conclave's focus on the twin issues of agriculture and internal security saw the government announcing remunerative minimum support price for wheat.

"This will benefit farmers in Punjab, Haryana and UP," she said, sure that the PM would also take follow-up action on issues like interest rates on cooperative loans.

She also hoped that the Standing Committee looking into the bill to provide statutory backing to the Forwards Markets Commission to curb speculation would expedite the work.

While referring to the forthcoming assembly polls, Sonia expressed the hope that Congress workers would appreciate the need for party unity and discipline. Her remarks were seen as an oblique reference to Jagmeet Brar's known anti-Amarinder stand in Punjab or Harish Rawat's face-offs with Chief Minister ND Tiwari in Uttaranchal.

Referring to the Senate approval to the Indo-US nuclear deal, she said that the party hoped that the final agreement, for which many steps are yet to be gone through, would be within the framework of what the Prime Minister has repeatedly said.

First Published: Nov 28, 2006 22:36 IST