Corruption, roadmap for future in focus at Congress plenary

Congress is holding a two-day plenary in the capital from Sunday.

New Delhi: Congress is holding a two-day
plenary here from Sunday at a time when the party and the
government are facing tough times in the wake of a rash of
scams and controversies thrown by them.

It is also being held at a time when a leaked US
diplomatic cable has kicked up a political storm by quoting
Rahul Gandhi as saying that Hindu radical groups pose a bigger
threat to India than the Lashkar-e-Toiba.

The plenary, with the theme of "dedication and service
of 125 years" is being held against the backdrop of the
party`s debacle in the Assembly polls in Bihar.

The talk of corruption spawned by the leaked
conversations in the Radia tapes has also dented the image of
the UPA government headed by the Congress.

Facing one of the toughest times in its 125 year
history, the Congress will give shape to its strategy to
tackle these controversies besides deliberating on crucial
issues facing the country.

Party president Sonia Gandhi is expected to spell out
the party’s strategy for next year’s Assembly Elections in
West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry. The
Congress is dependent on allies like the Trinamool Congress in
West Bengal and DMK in Tamil Nadu.

The DMK has been grappling with the 2G spectrum
controversy with CBI raids on DMK leaders including former
telecom minister A Raja.

While Trinamool Congress appears to be giving a cold
shoulder to Congress for alliance in the West Bengal polls,
NCP chief Sharad Pawar, whose party is another UPA ally, has
said that some decisions of the government have left investors
and India Inc disturbed.

From the speech of late Rajiv Gandhi against
middlemen in the Congress centenary conclave in Mumbai in 1985
to the 125th year conference in Burari on the city’s outskirts
at a time of expose over corporate lobbyists, it has been a
long journey for the party.

25 years ago, Rajiv Gandhi had given the call during
the centenary celebrations in Mumbai in a hard-hitting address
on the state of affairs in the party whose workers, he had
said, were "handicapped as on their backs rode the brokers of
power and influence".

After leading the party to the biggest victory in the
Lok Sabha polls after the assassination of Indira Gandhi,
Rajiv Gandhi who was then called ‘Mr Clean’, had warned that
industrial empires, built on shaky foundations of excessive
protection and corruption among others, might not last long.

Now, an embattled Congress is hopping from one
controversy after another and as Sonia Gandhi faces the
challenge of resurrecting the party and the coalition
government from a web of charges.

Notwithstanding the thumping victory in last year’s
Lok Sabha elections, things appear to be not going the
Congress and the UPA way in the last few months.

The 2G spectrum allocation scam is the latest to hit
the UPA-II with the Opposition dubbing it as the biggest
scandal in independent India with the CAG computing a
presumptive loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the exchequer.

The country was also rocked by the alleged scams
surrounding the Commonwealth Games, whose Organising Committee
was headed by Congress MP Suresh Kalmadi, and the Adarsh
Housing Society in Mumbai that cost the party chief minister
Ashok Chavan his job.

The plenary is the third such meet since Sonia Gandhi
took over the stewardship of the party in 1998.

The scams have given a boost to the BJP-led National
Democratic Alliance and other opposition parties which had
paralysed Parliament in the just-concluded Winter Session in
what was the longest shutdown of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya

Recently, Sonia Gandhi herself had expressed concern
over the growing cases of "graft and greed".

The Opposition is unlikely to budge from its stand on
the constitution of a Joint Parliamentary Committee to go into
the 2G spectrum scam, notwithstanding Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh’s lament that Parliament was not being allowed to

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.

Though the plenary is supposed to lay down the party`s
roadmap for the immediate future, but coming in the backdrop
of scandals, the focus of the party’s 83rd plenary will
essentially be on how the Congress aggressively counters the
opposition charges of corruption.