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Congress plenary begins in Hyderabad

By Onkar Singh in Hyderabad
Last updated on: January 21, 2006 17:42 IST
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The Congress Working Committee meeting headed by party President Sonia Gandhi began in the G M C Balyogi stadium on Saturday afternoon, in which final shape would be given to the resolutions to be passed during the three-day plenary session.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy and senior Congress leaders received Sonia and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the N T Ramarao airport.

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Chief ministers of Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and Jammu and Kashmir arrived at the venue of the convention hours before the commencement of the CWC meet.

All chief ministers of the Congress ruled states have been made special invitees to attend the CWC. Karnataka Chief Ministers Dharam Singh and Uttaranchal Chief Ministers Narain Dutt Tewari could not make it to Hyderabad.

Dharam Singh is expected to arrive on Sunday evening as the party president had summoned him.

"We would be giving final touches to political, economic and foreign affairs resolution," a senior leader said.

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Rahul Gandhi is expected to make his appearance on Sunday during the open session of the party, which is in two minds whether to induct the young Gandhi as the general secretary now or do it after the elections to the five states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Assam and Pondicherry, where the party is not expected to perform well.

Youth Congress leaders from Uttar Pradesh and other parts of the country are likely to raise the demand for induction of Rahul Gandhi on Sunday. Party General Secretary Ambika Soni, in her interaction with the media on Friday evening, had categorically ruled out the induction of Rahul Gandhi as the party general secretary in the Hyderabad plenary session.

The CWC meet, which marks the beginning of the 82nd All India Congress Committee plenary, is expected to be aimed at sprucing up the party's 'Aam Aadmi' (common man) image, ahead of the elections to five states, scheduled for April/May.

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Party sources said the CWC, which would be attended by 112 party leaders, would try to find a way out to save its government in Karnataka from the present crisis arising from the withdrawal of support by 47 Janata Dal (Secular) MLAs led by H D Kumaraswamy, son of former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda.

The AICC plenary, the first to be held after the Congress formed the coalition government at the Centre in May 2004, is expected to reaffirm its commitment to pursue pro-poor policies as part of the 'nation building' exercise, which has been chosen as the slogan for the session.

'Ateet ki neev bhavishya ka nirman nayi zimmedari' (accepting the new responsibility of nation building on the foundations of the past) is the theme of the session. This slogan has been coined to realise the dream of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to build a strong India to face the challenges of the 21st century.

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Even the venue for the session has been named as Rajiv Nagar in keeping with the practice of Congress giving its own name to the venue of its sessions.

As proof of its concern for the welfare of the common man, the party would showcase at the session the government's Rs 1,74,000 crore Bharat Nirman programme to provide infrastructure facilities in rural areas, the Rs 1,00,000 crore Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission and the Rs 40,000-50,000 crore Employment Guarantee Scheme.

The party would also cite the government's decision to rollback the over Rs 4,000 crore food subsidy, which would have affected about 21 crore families, without standing on prestige as an example of its unwavering commitment to the welfare of the weaker sections.

On the issue of checking corruption and bringing transparency in the functioning of the government, the party would highlight the recently passed Right to Information Act.

Sonia will address the session on Sunday while the prime minister will deliver his speech on the concluding day.

With UNI inputs

Photograph: Jewella C Miranda

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Onkar Singh in Hyderabad