Shed factionalism, for future battles: Sonia to Congressmen

New Delhi:Admitting that the assembly poll results were very disappointing for the Congress in Punjab and Goa and below expectations in Uttar Pradesh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi Wednesday asked party members to shed factionalism if the party was to win or lose the coming electoral battles.

“Most importantly, we must all shed all manner of factional behaviour, and fight as one disciplined team at all levels. That will be the single-most important factor to decide whether we win or lose,” Gandhi said in her address to the Congress parliamentary party.

“People look to us – but we need to show them our commitment and our unity if we are to convert this sentiment into electoral victories,” she added.

In her first speech to party MPs since the January-March assembly polls in five states, Gandhi asked partymen to draw lessons from the outcome and prepare for the forthcoming contests.

“As we approach a series of state elections in the coming months, we must draw upon the lessons of the previous polls. We must project our work as a central government and expose the hollow claims of opposition-ruled state governments. Mis-governance and corruption have been widespread in some of these states as revealed by CAG and Lokayukta reports. It is for us all, particularly for our party at the state level, to highlight these failures,” Gandhi said.

Assembly elections are due in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh later this year and in Karnataka in the first half of next year. All three states are ruled by Bharatiya Janata Party. Assembly elections are also due next year in Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh ahead of Lok Sabha polls in the first half of 2014.

Gandhi said the party did not perform as well as it had hoped to in Uttar Pradesh but sought to draw on positives of the result.

“We increased our vote share considerably and were seen as a serious player for the first time in 22 years,” she said.

Sonia Gandhi’s son Rahul Gandhi, a party general secretary, had campaigned extensively in Uttar Pradesh where the party could win only 28 of 403 seats. The party had won 22 seats in 2007.

“Of course there is much work to be done there, as in other states,” the Congress president said.

She said the party can take satisfaction in returning to power in Manipur for the third time and forming the government in Uttarakhand. However, “the results in Punjab and Goa were very disappointing”.

Gandhi said the central government has endeavoured to work closely with state governments on issues such as fighting terrorism or dealing with Left-wing extremism and refuted criticism from some non-Congress parties about not adhering to federal principles in some of its decisions.

“We are fully committed to strengthening federalism, which is a key tenet of our party’s and UPA’s agenda,” she said, adding that there had been unprecedented transfers of financial assistance from centre to states in the past eight years.

“Trust and cooperation must be the anchor of centre-state relations,” she said.

She said the government was awaiting reports of standing committees on a number of important legislations including on food security and land acquisition.

Referring to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as “Pranabji”, she said the budget had renewed government’s priority for faster and inclusive growth and referred to many of its provisions.

Mukherjee’s name has been doing the rounds as a probable Congress candidate in the July presidential polls.

Gandhi called for sharper focus on improving effectiveness of public expenditure and said Aadhar had potential to eliminate ineffectiveness, waste and corruption.

The Congress president said a bill to ensure transparency in public procurement is expected to be introduced in parliament over the next few days and would mark another milestone in the government’s determination to enhance probity.

She said the party had remained steadfast in its commitment to the “aam aadmi (common man) and weaker sections” though it had faced challenges that had tested its resolve.

Referring to opposition parties and veiled criticism about policy paralysis in government, she said it had become fashionable these days to criticise the government.

“We must not allow this deflect us. We must speak forcefully and with confidence on what we have achieved – and there is much we have to show despite difficult economic times,” she said.

Gandhi also asked partymen to project govenment’s accomplishments and expose the opposition’s “double-speak” and its “obstructive behaviour” in blocking parliamentary proceedings.

Pointing to the upcoming 60th anniversary of the Lok Sabha, she said establishment of representative parliamentary democracy in India, anchored in secular, liberal and progressive values is “undoubtedly amongst the finest achievements of our party”.


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