Fulfill 2009 promises to win 2014 poll, Sonia tells government (Roundup)

Surajkund (Haryana), Nov 9: Congress chief Sonia Gandhi Friday asked the government to get cracking on fulfilling the 2009 promises in the 18 months left before it hits the next general election, scheduled in 2014 but not ruled out in 2013, and urged the party and the government to bridge the gap to achieve that goal.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh shared her view and said high economic growth to support the welfare agenda was the main challenge besides controlling high food prices, fiscal deficit and subsidy bill.

Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi expressed hope that the party would be able to overcome the challenges and said decision making should be expedited and the political system be opened to serve the common man.

The remarks from top leadership came up during the party’s six-and-a-half hour informal ‘Samvad Baithak’ (dialogue meet), a prelude to the larger ‘Chintan Shivir’ likely next year to devise the poll strategy, held in this Haryana town bordering the national capital. Over 40 leaders spoke.

“With 18 months left for the next general election, both the government and the party will have to work cohesively together to secure a renewed mandate,” Gandhi said.

“Those of you who are in the government should get down to implementing the work left from the promises made in the 2009 manifesto,” Gandhi said.

The meeting discussed the National Food Security Bill in this light but felt the Congress was not in a position to pass it alone.

“The prime minister said the most important economic challenge was to achieve high growth rate,” Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said quoting Manmohan Singh.

“He expressed concern on high food prices, which affects the common man, fiscal deficit and subsidy bill including food, fertiliser and petroleum subsidy,” said Dwivedi.

He also talked about the need to check communal violence.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram attributed the slowdown in the country’s economy to the global economic situation, high commodity prices and declining investment. He cautioned the meeting on reforms saying the country should avoid any controversy in this area.

Chidambaram pointed out that fiscal consolidation and a stable rupee would be required to restart the growth engine and said the role of foreign investment was important to achieve this goal.

The Congress meeting was attended by 66 people, including ministers and Congress Working Committee members.

Aiming at better coordination within the party, the Congress has formed a panel with three specific groups which would be announced shortly, said Dwivedi.

Gandhi also said that the party and the government needed to do much more so that benefits of the various flagship social welfare programmes reached the poor and needy.

She asked ministers to spend more time at party offices and at party events whenever they travelled to a state, especially those ruled by the opposition.

Though Gandhi did not mention foreign equity in retail, she said the party must explain the difficult decisions to the people.

She also urged the party and the government to rebut false charges being levelled by the opposition.

IANS