PM, Sonia attend Congress Core Group meeting

Last Updated: Friday, July 24, 2009 - 23:09

New Delhi: With the controversial Indo-Pak
joint statement stirring a hornet`s nest, a meeting of the
Congress top brass was held here tonight at a time when the
party has given ample hints of distancing from the stand of
the government.

The over two-hour long meeting of the Congress Core
Group attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress
chief Sonia Gandhi came in the backdrop of the unease in the
party over the joint statement.

There was no official word about the deliberations at
the crucial meeting which began at 8 PM at the prime
minister`s residence.

A senior leader who did not want to be named said the
meeting was "routine" but did not specify what issues were
discussed.

Several Congress leaders, including some senior
ministers, appear to be having serious reservations over the
formulation of the joint statement, especially delinking
action on terror with the composite dialogue and the reference
to Balochistan.

As there has been an unease in the party, the refrain
of spokespersons so far has been to either remain silent on
the merits of the statement or directing the queries by
remarks like "ask the government".

A discussion on the joint statement is scheduled in
the Lok Sabha next week where Singh is expected to intervene
and make the position of the government clear.

Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon in a tacit
admission said the joint statement could be a case of bad
drafting.

Besides Singh and Gandhi, the meeting was attended by
Defence Minister A K Antony, Finance Minister Pranab
Mukherjee, Home Minister P Chidambaram and political secretary
to Gandhi, Ahmed Patel.

The Opposition BJP has been scathing in its attack on
the governemnt for the `complete turnaround` in its foreign
policy vis-a-vis Pakistan and has been asking the Congress-led
coalition as to what had prompted it to bring the change.

Pakistan has been quick to attack India in the wake of
the reference to Balochistan, accusing New Delhi of
interfering in its internal affairs.

The joint statement was reached after a meeting of
Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Gandhi will be addressing party MPs at a general body
meeting of the Congress Parliamentary Party(CPP) on July 30
during when she is expected to address the concerns of the
members.

With the Assembly elections for Maharashtra due to be
held by October, the Core Group is understood to have
deliberated on the issue as well along with that of advancing
the Haryana Assembly elections.

Elections in Haryana is scheduled by February next
year but is expected to be held along with that of
Maharashtra.

The meeting also came in the backdrop of the Congress
being on a collision course with BSP in Uttar Pradesh in the
wake of the Rita Bahuguna Joshi controversy.

Bureau Report



First Published: Friday, July 24, 2009 - 23:09

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