Cong meet over reforms, Telangana, Rahul Gandhi's role today

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Manmohan Singh-Sonia Gandhi
New Delhi, Sept 25: With Mamata Banerjee walking out of UPA and the government facing opposition heat on economic reforms, Congress top brass will meet on Tuesday to take stock of the present situation and chalk out the strategy ahead.

A meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) chaired by Congress President Sonia Gandhi is expected to discuss on Tuesday morning the evolving political situation in the wake of Trinamool Congress severing ties with UPA and the government's determination to push ahead with reforms.

The meeting also comes at a time when there is a clear realisation in Congress that the vexed issue of Telangana cannot be kept hanging for long. Indications have been given that a decision on the issue will be taken shortly.

A couple of days back, Andhra Pradesh Governor ESL Narasimhan had a meeting with Gandhi, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Finance Minister P Chidambaram, fuelling speculation that a decision may be on the cards. TRS chief K Chandrasekhara Rao is camping in the national capital for a meeting with Gandhi.

The CWC meeting is taking place in the backdrop of clear indications that Rahul Gandhi is going to assume a "larger role" in party affairs very soon.

The occasion could be utilised by the party to rally behind the Prime Minister, who is being targetted by opposition parties on a host of issues including FDI in multi-brand retail.

The timing of the meeting is crucial as it comes close on the heels of the opposition parties holding a nationwide bandh to oppose the government's decision on allowing 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail, hiking prices of diesel and putting a cap on supply of subsidised LPG cylinders to households.

The meeting is also significant as it is being held ahead of the crucial assembly elections in three states including Narendra Modi-run Gujarat.

AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi, however, refused to specify what are issues that will be discussed in Tuesday's meeting.

"It will discuss the present situation" was his only refrain when asked about the issues that are expected to come up for deliberations in CWC.

Despite the 19-member Trinamool Congress walking out of UPA, Congress is not worried over the numbers as both Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party have continued to back the government.

Opposition NDA has also said that it is not pushing for the ouster of the government, maintaining that it will not take steps in that direction as it may fall due to its internal contradictions.

However, the worry for the government is that some of its allies do not agree with recent decisions. DMK had joined the nationwide bandh on Sept 20 against the government's decisions.

Even within Congress, there have been voices of disagreement.

While a special invitee to CWC Anil Shastri has openly opposed the decisions saying they have damaged the party, some leaders speaking on the condition of anonymity said that the government could have moved a bit more cautiously on the measures.

The meeting will be attended by permanent members of CWC as well as its permanent invitees.

Sources in the party said no fixed agenda on subjects to be discussed in the meeting has been circulated among the members.

"The CWC meeting will begin with the opening address of the Congress president, which will touch upon the issues that are to be discussed and then the members will express their views," a senior party leader said.

No resolution is likely after the meeting, though the CWC is expected to endorse the decisions taken by the government on the economic reforms.

At the AICC briefing, party spokesperson Manish Tewari said he is "not privy" to the agenda of the CWC.

Replying to questions on the Telengana issue, he said he has been repeatedly reiterating that it is a contentious issue.

"We are aware of the sensitivities involved. There is a reason to stay patient, to stay engaged and the government is very cognizant of the arguments on all sides of the debate. So as and when something does fructify, you obviously would be informed," Tewari said.

On FDI in retail, he said there is no problem as far as numbers are concerned but added "if some of our supporting parties do have apprehensions, we will work with them to try and alleviate and resolve those apprehensions.

"Let us understand at the end of the day government has only put an enabling architecture in place but ultimately it is the state government which has to take decision whether to allow FDI in retail or not.

"So, we have leverage of the flexibility of Indian federal system to allow those who are proponents of FDI in multi-brand retail to go ahead and take the decision and we have also given the liberty to those who have apprehension to arrive at this decision at their own given time or at their own convenience."

PTI

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