Antony Panel meets to discuss future of Congress

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New Delhi, Jun 5 (UNI) The first meeting of the seven-member group headed by Defence Minister A K Antony to suggest ways and means to revitalise the Congress met here today.

The meeting was presided over by group Chairman and Defence Minister A K Antony.

''We had a preliminary discussion," a member of the panel told UNI here tonight.

The meeting lasted nearly one hour at the AICC headquarters.

All the members of the group -- Mr A K Antony, former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh, Union Ministers P R Dasmunsi and Mani Shankar Aiyar, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, AICC General Secretary Mukul Wasnik and Ms Urmila Singh -- attended the meeting.

Disturbed by the party's electoral reverses in Karnataka, Congress president Sonia Gandhi constituted the group yesterday to give suggestions to 're-energise' the party to effectively take on its rivals in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections and the Assembly polls in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.

The group has been asked to submit its report within the next 15 days.

The group was constituted on the basis of a decision taken at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) here on May 31. The CWC mainly discussed the party's debacle in Karnataka Assembly elections.

The nomination of Mr Antony to head the panel shows the increasing clout of the three-time Kerala Chief Minister in the party's organisational matters.

While the Lok Sabha elections are due early next year, the states of Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir are likely to go to polls in November this year.

UNI SH SYU RAI2244

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