Congress fully endorsed government’s new economic reform measures, including FDI in multi-brand retail, as party president Sonia Gandhi ruled out any threat to the government. The endorsement came at the first meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) after Trinamool Congress walked out of UPA with the party president saying the government was “stable”.
At the same time, there was a demand in the meeting 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 meeting of the CWC, which began with opening remarks by 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. The Prime Minister said that effective steps for welfare of the poor cannot be taken unless the economy is strong. 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, Gandhi 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. Congress sources said that there a likelihood of the party organising a massive rally in Delhi in support of the measures initiated by the government. 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. 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. Replying to questions, AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said that there was nothing like a dissenting note from any party leader on the economic reform measures. “No such thing came up in the CWC meeting,” Dwivedi said when asked whether somebody raised a dissenting voice on the government measures like diesel hike and FDI. There was no discussion on the issue of Telangana, he said. There were earlier speculation that the party can firm up a view in the CWC meeting on the vexed issue of separate statehood.
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