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Sidelights of CM's conclave

The seventh CM's conclave in Nainital started half an hour behind schedule.

india Updated: Sep 23, 2006 23:27 IST
Pankaj Vohra
Pankaj Vohra

The seventh CM's conclave in Nainital started half an hour behind schedule. The delay was on account of a group photograph which the 14 participating CMs had with the Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

However, the beginning was subsequently very businesslike and there was no hoisting of the party flag and the two leaders came into the conference hall soon after the photo session.

During the Chandigarh conclave, the flag hoisting ceremony had taken place. There were some Congress activists who also wondered whether the conclave should have started with the rendering of Vande Matram since all AICC sessions begin that way.


The Nainital Club where the conclave is being held has got a makeover. The dilapidated and decaying premises have been spruced up for the event and people of the small hill town are happy that the place has a new look.

Even neutral observers are of the view that such political activity also contributes to development which otherwise in the normal course takes a back seat.


Star struck politicians of the Congress are happy that the conclave started on an auspicious note and its opening coincided with the first Navratra.

It is being pointed out that while the Congress meeting is being held on auspicious days, the BJP had held its National Executive meeting in Dehradun on first day of the Sharads. Many may wonder whether such things actually have a bearing on real politik.


The Congress president has fixed a special meeting with the Chief Ministers of Punjab and Uttaranchal on the sidelines of the conclave.

The special meeting will focus on poll preparedness in these two states ad the congress leadership will take inputs for the final strategy, which will be subsequently drawn out.

Punjab CM Amarinder Singh and Uttaranchal CM Narain Dutt Tewari were both upbeat and felt that the meeting will help them to evolve a winning game plan.


Most of the senior party leaders arrived this morning by the Ranikhet Express till Kathkodam to attend the conclave. The railways had provided for two special first class air-conditioned coaches for their travel.

The VVIP passengers included Congress president's political secretary Ahmed Patel, Delhi CM Shiela Dikshit, Union Ministers Ambika Soni and Jairam Ramesh and party chief whip V Narayanswamy.

Ghulam Nabi Azad and YS Rajshekhar Reddy, the two most protected Congress CM's flew in till Pantnagar in the same aircraft and than travelled together by road to Nainital.

Many of the CM's arrived at the venue in their own vehicles but Dikshit, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Bhupinder Hooda and Vir Bhadra Singh reached the venue in two special buses.


Sonia Gandhi's indirect reference to SEZs raised many eyebrows and those attending the conclave tried to figure out whether she was in favour or against the SEZs.

However, the Congress president did not dwell on the subject and made a very balanced observation.

She said that prime agricultural land should not normally be diverted to non-agricultural uses. Industries needs should not be at the cost of jeopardising our agricultural prospects. Farmers must get proper compensation when their land is purchased.


The Prime Minister's speech was once again unusually long and it appeared to have had a sleep inducing effect. No wonder when the close circuit TV camera occasionally focussed on some of the CMs, they were either seen yawning or seemed to have gone to sleep with their eyes closed.

The body language of many of the CMs and senior Congress functionaries also showed the changing equations within the party and the government.


A reference by the Prime Minister that a group of ministers under the Home Minister Shivraj Patil had been constituted to deal with the internal security issues set tongues wagging in the media circuit.

A wag said that Patil had been made the head of the group since Pranab Mukherjee (who heads the maximum group of ministers) is in the United Nations leading an Indian delegation to the General Assembly.


The first day's discussions revolved only around the agriculture issues. Party general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi explained that internal security will be taken up on Sunday.

The PM and Congress president's opening remarks constituted the base for all the discussions. The CM's who spoke till 5 pm included ND Tewari, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Vir Bhadra Singh, Sheila Dikshit, Tarun Gogoi, YS Rajshekhar Reddy, G Apang and Pratap Singh Rane.

During the debate, there were interventions by P Chidambaram and Mani Shankar Aiyar. There were also contributions from Digvijay Singh, Ashok Gehlot, Margaret Alva, Veerappa Moily and Satyavrat Chaturvedi.


Party leaders took pains to explain that Sonia Gandhi was not opposed to the SEZ concept but only wanted an element of caution to be exercised while acquiring agricultural land.

She was also of the view that wherever it was possible, the farmers should also have a stake in the industry set up on the land acquired from them.

After the Congress president's remarks, the party and the government seemed to have agreed that they would henceforth constitute the official position regarding SEZs. Leaders also tried to play down reservations on the matter by some ministers in the past.

First Published: Sep 23, 2006 23:27 IST