Under-fire PM, Sonia to show party strength at Sunday mega rally
Seeking to push the UPA's economic reforms agenda amid a slew of corruption allegations and criticism from the BJP and Subramanian Swamy, the Congress leadership will address a mega rally of party workers at Delhi's Ramlila ground today
Ahead of the next general elections, scheduled in 2014 but not ruled out in 2013, the Congress, which has preferred a socialist cloak over the past decades, wants to convey a message that good economic policies could fetch rich political dividends.
The rally, being seen in political circles as a massive show of strength, will be attended by all Congress chief ministers, state unit chiefs, heads of block and district units, MPs, legislators and office bearers of the party’s frontal organisations.
Sources say the Congress leadership, including general secretary Rahul Gandhi, is expected to explain the government’s recent moves to open the economy, especially allowing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail despite intense opposition to the move. The Congress Working Committee, the party’s highest decision-making body, had also endorsed FDI in retail in September while highlighting the need for social welfare schemes. Hit by a series of corruption allegations over the past year and an economic slowdown, the Congress is expected to flag the need for high economic growth that in turn will fund its social welfare agenda, according to sources.
The political importance of the economic reforms is obvious from the fact that the move is receiving greater support from leaders who will have
to face elections, in order to be able to return to the Lok Sabha, than by those in the Rajya Sabha.
The Congress has maintained that FDI in retail will help farmers and consumers and result in job creation for the youth — the constituencies it would like to address. Party leadership is also expected to attack the BJP and India Against Corruption leader Arvind Kejriwal over the corruption charges they have been hurling at the party and the government.
The rally would be followed by an informal review-cum-strategy meet on November 9 at Surajkund, near Delhi, at which the party’s top leadership, Congress Working Committee members, general secretaries in charge of states, cabinet ministers and ministers of state with independent charge will participate. The meet will discuss the current political situation and economic challenges facing the country and review the implementation of the Congress’ 2009 election manifesto. The move, said party sources, is meant to identify the gaps in governance and present a roadmap for the new-look cabinet, which was rejigged last Sunday.
Meanwhile, the party’s travails are not over. Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy said on Saturday that he will urge the Election Commission to de-recognise the Congress for providing an “interest-free loan” to Associated Journals Ltd. This, a day after the Congress admitted it gave the loan to the publisher of the National Herald.
And the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today alleged that the rally is in favour of FDI. “Political parties do rallies on a specific issue, but the upcoming rally of the Congress Party is in favour of FDI, which is totally a rally in the favour of America,” said BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain.
Hussain further charged the Congress Party with not taking measures to lower inflation and eradicate major problems like corruption, unemployment and Naxalism.