Sonia backs PM on reforms, says no threat to govt
New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday lauded Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh for taking bold initiatives aimed at improving the economic situation of the country.
The UPA chairperson praised the Prime Minister during a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), which was held at her 10, Janpath residence today.
During the meeting, there was a demand for steps to allay apprehensions of people regarding the new economic reform measures initiated by the government at a time when elections are due in some states in the next few months.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured the party's apex decision-making body that the steps being taken for the poor and the disadvantaged will continue in league with the Congress policies for development and welfare of the 'Aam Admi'.
The Prime Minister said that effective steps for welfare of the poor cannot be taken unless the economy is strong.
The meeting of the CWC, which began with opening remarks by Sonia Gandhi, saw the government making a strong pitch for reforms with Finance Minister P Chidambaram making it clear that unless the country's economic condition is sound, the government is not in a position to implement the flagship programmes of UPA targeted at the poor.
Explaining the rationale behind the measures, Chidambaram said the government wants that the country should not get affected due to the global economic crisis.
In her opening remarks, Sonia said that reforms in the economy are "very necessary" and the government has begun the moves in that direction.
The Congress President also slammed BJP for playing "negative" politics, saying the main opposition party should play the role of a responsible opposition as was done by Congress when it was not in power.
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit was specially called for the meeting, which saw members suggesting that rallies should be held at district level to convince the people about the need to bring in the measures like allowing 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail, hiking diesel prices and putting a cap on the supply of subsidised LPG cylinders to households.
While no resolution was adopted after the meeting, the tone and tenor of Gandhi's speech made it clear that the party was fully behind the government on the issue.
Chidambaram was called to brief the CWC members about the economic reform measures, which led to a political storm culminating in Trinamool Congress withdrawing support from the ruling alliance.
Addressing a press briefing later, Congress spokesperson Janardan Dwivedi said, “The CWC members who attended today’s meeting endorsed the key reform measures taken by the UPA government led by PM Manmohan Singh.”
However, he categorically said that there was no discussion on the Telangana issue.
It was expected that during the CWC meet, party leaders will discuss the vexatious issue of granting statehood to Telangana.
Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS) chief K Chadrashekhar Rao has been camping in Delhi hoping for a formal announcement from the Centre on Telangana.
Besides, the CWC also assessed the impact of the present economic reforms being carried out, in view of open criticism by some Congress leaders of the UPA government’s decision of hiking the prices of diesel and putting a cap on subsidised LPG.
It is also not clear whether a discussion on a larger role for Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi in the party was held during the CWC meet.
The CWC meet was attended by the Chief Ministers of Congress-ruled states, general secretaries and special invitees.
The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government has been reduced to a working minority in the Lok Sabha after the 19 MPs of Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress parted ways over the latest economic reforms, including foreign equity in multi-brand retail.
After Trinamool Congress’ exit, Congress leadership has taken best efforts to end speculation over the government’s instability, claiming that there is no threat to it as it was backed by over 300 MPs.
The Congress party has also claimed to have secured outside support of the Samajwadi Party (22), Bahujan Samaj Party (21) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (4).
The exit of six Trinamool ministers has also created new vacancies in the council of ministers which have to be filled up during a reshuffle in the offing, party sources claim.
Plus, changes in the party organisation are needed in order to gear up for the coming state elections ahead of the general elections in 2014.
The CWC meeting assumed great significance as it was the first interaction of the top party leaders in the wake of devastating CAG report on the coal block allocation, which has triggered a political tsunami in the country.
The CAG has accused political parties of giving "undue benefits" to private players to the tune of Rs 1.86 lakh crore.
The CWC meeting came five days after a nation-wide bandh by the opposition in protest against the measures. UPA constituent DMK had also joined the bandh.