Congress endorses UPA government's new economic reforms
MDT/PTI 25 September 2012

Congress President Sonia Gandhi, while slamming BJP for playing 'negative' politics, said reforms in the economy are very necessary and the UPA government has started moving in this direction

New Delhi: Congress on Tuesday fully endorsed new economic reform measures of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, including foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, as party president Sonia Gandhi ruled out any threat to the government, reports PTI.


The endorsement came at the first meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) after Trinamool Congress walked out of UPA with the party president saying the government was "stable".


At the same time, there was a demand in the meeting for steps to allay apprehensions of people regarding the new economic reform measures initiated by the government at a time when elections are due in some states in the next few months.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured the party's apex decision-making body that the steps being taken for the poor and the disadvantaged will continue in league with the Congress policies for development and welfare of the 'Aam Admi'.


The meeting of the CWC, which began with opening remarks by Gandhi, saw the government making a strong pitch for reforms with Finance Minister P Chidambaram making it clear that unless the country's economic condition is sound, the government is not in a position to implement the flagship programmes of UPA targeted at the poor.


The Prime Minister said that effective steps for welfare of the poor cannot be taken unless the economy is strong.


Explaining the rationale behind the measures, Chidambaram said the government wants that the country should not get affected due to the global economic crisis.


In her opening remarks, Gandhi said that reforms in the economy are "very necessary" and the government has begun the moves in that direction.


The Congress President also slammed BJP for playing "negative" politics, saying the main opposition party should play the role of a responsible opposition as was done by Congress when it was not in power.


Congress sources said that there a likelihood of the party organising a massive rally in Delhi in support of the measures initiated by the government.


Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit was specially called for the meeting, which saw members suggesting that rallies should be held at district level to convince the people about the need to bring in the measures like allowing 51% FDI in multi-brand retail, hiking diesel prices and putting a cap on the supply of subsidised LPG cylinders to households.


While no resolution was adopted after the meeting, the tone and tenor of Gandhi's speech made it clear that the party was fully behind the government on the issue.


Chidambaram was called to brief the CWC members about the economic reform measures, which led to a political storm culminating in Trinamool Congress withdrawing support from the ruling alliance.


The CWC meeting came five days after a nation-wide bandh by the opposition in protest against the measures. UPA constituent DMK had also joined the bandh.


Replying to questions, AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said that there was nothing like a dissenting note from any party leader on the economic reform measures.


"No such thing came up in the CWC meeting," Dwivedi said when asked whether somebody raised a dissenting voice on the government measures like diesel hike and FDI.


There was no discussion on the issue of Telangana, he said.


There were earlier speculation that the party can firm up a view in the CWC meeting on the vexed issue of separate statehood.


Though the Congress President did not take any names, sources said Gandhi mentioned in her opening remarks that while one party (Trinamool Congress) has withdrawn support from UPA, two allies (SP and BSP) have reiterated their outside support to the government.


"Government is stable. There is no threat to the government," Dwivedi quoted Gandhi as saying in the meeting.


Sources said that a senior party member felt that if possible, the number of subsidised LPG cylinders to each household should be increased.


The CWC was of the view that all precautions should be taken to remove the apprehensions of people on FDI.


Briefing the CWC, Chidambaram said the government has only three options to improve the economy of the country including raising production, increasing investment in the country and cutting on subsidies on which it is working.


After a number of CWC members expressed the view that there is a need to convince people about measures and counter the Opposition campaign against the government on the issue, it was decided that the week-long campaign carried out by Union Ministers and senior Congress leaders in different states will be extended further.


The Congress President also expressed sorrow over incidents of communal violence in few states and the violent ethnic clashes in Assam.


AICC general secretary Gulchain Singh Charak, who belongs to Jammu and Kashmir, expressed concern over killings of sarpanches in the state and pointed out that they have not been given powers though more than one-and-a-half year has passed since panchayat elections were held in the state.


The concern prompted Rahul Gandhi to say that it was a serious matter and required attention. Panchayat elections in J&K took place after a gap of 34 years.


A view was also expressed in the CWC that opposition parties ruling in states are making political capital out of central schemes by passing them as their own initiatives.


One of the leaders raised this in the context of Gujarat, saying posters of Chief Minister Narendra Modi are put up to display work carried out under central government schemes.

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