Congress to hold plenary next week

The three-day Plenary will begin on December 18.

Last Updated: Dec 12, 2010, 15:38 PM IST

New Delhi: An embattled Congress is holding
next week a plenary session here at a time when its chief
Sonia Gandhi is facing the biggest challenge of her political
career with the issue of corruption assuming centrestage in
the backdrop of a series of scams.

The plenary is the third such meet since Gandhi took
over the stewardship of the party in 1998. The organisation
had seen difficult days when similar issues had come to the
fore in 1975 in the wake of the Navnirman Movement in Gujarat
and in 1987 after the Bofors payoffs case came to light.

The three-day Plenary will begin on December 18.

Added to this is the fact that the just concluded
Assembly elections in Bihar have proved to be a disaster for
Congress in spite of young leader Rahul Gandhi playing a major
role in campaigning, political analysts feel.

The development has given a boost to the BJP-led NDA and
other opposition parties whom the Congress had convincingly
humbled for the second successive time in the Lok Sabha
elections of 2009 under Sonia Gandhi`s leadership.

Recently, Gandhi herself had expressed concern over the
growing cases of "graft and greed". The opposition got an
opportunity to corner the government in the 2G spectrum
allocation scam by paralysing Parliament for the entire winter
session, which is being billed as the longest shutdown of Lok
Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

The opposition is unlikely to change its stance despite
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh lamenting over Parliament not
being allowed to function.

The confrontation between the two sides is expected to
grow in the coming days and months with the opposition
determined to carry its campaign on the JPC demand to the
Budget session.

The AICC meeting held here over a month back had evoked
a controversy as neither Sonia nor Singh or Rahul had referred
to the issue of corruption.

A few days after the meet, Gandhi had removed Ashok
Chavan as Maharashtra Chief Minister in the wake of the Adarsh
Housing scam and sacked CPP Secretary Suresh Kalmadi, who is
also the Chairman of the Organising Committee of the
Commonwealth Games.

The plenary is important as it will decide the strategy
ahead for the party with 2011 scheduled to have elections to
the assemblies of Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Kerala, Assam and
West Bengal, while 2012 will see the battle of the ballot in
politically-key Uttar Pradesh along with some other states
including BJP-ruled Gujarat.

A section of the UPA believes that if the opposition
continued on the course of confrontation on the 2G issue in
the new year, the possibility of mid-term elections could not
be ruled out.

However, Congress leaders like Digvijay Singh have
dismissed such an eventuality. With Sonia grappling with one controversy after another, the talk in the AICC is that she could delay a decision on reconstituting the 25-member apex policy making
body -- Congress Working Committee.

Gandhi was expected to take a decision on the
powerful CWC before the AICC Plenary here following her
re-election as party chief for the fourth term.

Now the talk is that the task could take more time as
Gandhi`s hands have been full in recent days due to a number
of problems being faced by the party.

Gandhi faces a ticklish task in selecting CWC members
and had herself indicated during the AICC meeting here last
month that some of the members of the Committee could face the
axe in the reconstitution exercise.

"Nominating CWC is a very difficult job. Somebody will
complain of being left out, (or ask) why others have been
made. Somewhere someone will be left out. Now when you have
put trust in me, some of you should be prepared to bear the
loss," Gandhi had said.

The CWC has been turned into a Steering Committee
following Gandhi`s re-election.

Gandhi has to nominate 23 leaders to the CWC as she as
party chief and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is also
parliamentary party leader, will remain its members.

PTI