Jaipur: With the Congress preparing for almost a dozen assembly elections in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls in 2014, party president Sonia Gandhi asked her colleagues on Friday to draw up a strategy to regain support in states where the party has lost its traditional following.
The Congress, the most prominent national party since Independence, now faces “increased competition and inroads have been made into its traditional support base”, Gandhi said at a party conclave in Jaipur. “There are some states where we have been out of office for too long. And although I do believe that being in power is not the sole purpose of political activity, this does have an adverse impact on our morale and organizational ability.”
Gandhi, under whose leadership the party decided to form coalitions to regain power at the 2003 Shimla meeting, said the organization shouldn’t be undermined.
“In states in which we are in alliance, we have to strike a balance between respecting these alliances and ensuring that the party’s rejuvenation is not compromised,” she said.
Pointing out that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has introduced several welfare schemes, she said the party had not been able to translate this into political support. “I hope this will be discussed and that concrete suggestions will emerge.”
The party president criticized the disunity among leaders in the state units. “Is it not the case that we have squandered many opportunities that people are willing to give us simply because we have been unable to function as a disciplined and united team,” Gandhi asked.
She asked party workers to come together, setting aside personal ambitions and work cohesively.
Meanwhile, during discussions over the five points on the agenda at the meeting— the emerging political scenario, socio-economic challenges, international affairs, women’s empowerment and organisational matters—the delegates were asked to express their views “frankly and fearlessly”.
In the discussion on the socio-economic scenario, Kerala leaders like union minister Vayalar Ravi and state unit president Ramesh Chennithala criticized the economic policies of the UPA government.
While Chennithala urged the government to review the increase in diesel prices, Ravi said some of its decisions had created an impression that private companies were dictating policy.
The minister, who spoke in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, asked the government to review the decision to rein in the subsidy on diesel, fertilizer and cooking gas. The government’s recent policy changes have led to the revival of investor interest in the country’s economy. Ravi wanted the government to restrict foreign direct investment (FDI) in infrastructure.