Sonia Gandhi pushes Congress into poll mode

March 11th, 2008 - 6:23 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, March 11 (IANS) Pushing the party further into poll mode, Congress president Sonia Gandhi Tuesday asked her party men to get ready with “much harder work and meticulous preparations” and highlight the government’s welfare programmes and the populist budget. Unveiling her strategy during an address to the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) in parliament house, Gandhi said: “The simple lesson is that we need much harder work and meticulous preparations, much more careful selection of our candidates and strategies, much greater unity and discipline.”

“Inevitably, we have also to start preparing for the Lok Sabha polls next year. We will go into these polls with an outstanding record of achievements, both in terms of government programmes and of legislation enacted,” Gandhi said.

She believed the achievements of the party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government should “earn” the “trust and mandate of the people once again”.

“These achievements give us a firm sense of self-confidence to take on our political opponents,” she told the Congress MPs.

The ruling party, which faced embarrassing defeats in a series of elections including Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, is expecting both the Railway and the Union budget plus the Rs.600 billion farm loan waiver to earn it popular support.

She asked the party machinery to prepare a district-wise database of loan beneficiaries for better coordination in order to implement the loan waiver scheme.

Saying that non-Congress chief ministers might try to take the claim for schemes like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, which ensures 100 days of employment to an able bodied person in each rural family, Gandhi asked her party workers to propagate such welfare programmes.

Condemning the “manifestations of bigoted provincialism deliberately engineered for narrow political gains”, referring to the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s tirade against north Indian migrant workers in Mumbai, Gandhi said: “It is the fundamental responsibility of those in authority to ensure the security and safety of everyone.”

The Congress president also praised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the “dignified and brilliant” manner in which he “demolished all arguments of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders” against the government.

According to MPs who attended the meeting, Gandhi said Manmohan Singh’s speech in parliament last week has given a new zeal to the party and would inspire party workers.

Gandhi’s speech comes two days after she addressed a mammoth gathering of farmers in the capital during which she eulogised the loan waiver and other schemes of the UPA government and blamed the previous NDA regime’s “failures” as responsible for the present woes of farmers.

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