The Congress’ first ever “samvaad baithak” (dialogue session) at Surajkund today, saw the Congress President Sonia Gandhi admitting publicly to the disconnect that exits between the party and the government over crucial issues and had her urging for greater coordination between the two, a vital factor for the Congress in the run up to general elections 2014.
With more than 40 of the 70 participants speaking at the meet, a majority of Congressmen voiced concerns over the government’s controversial decision of capping subsidized domestic LPG cylinders to six per household; thereby exerting pressure on the government to consider raising the cap on subsidized cylinders.
At the end of the six hour long deliberation, a coordination group alongwith three sub groups was set up to facilitate the party and government coordination.
In the past few weeks, apart from the obvious disconnect between the party and the government over the LPG cap issue especially as the party goes to polls in several states; differences of views have cropped up on several other such as the Food Security bill, the price hike on non – subdised cylinders by Rs 26 (which was subsequently rolled back the same day) and even over appointments to the just concluded Council of ministers.
Party sources said that there was a strong demand for raising the cap of subsidised LPG cylinders from the current six to 12, forcing Petroleum Minister Veerappa Moily to agree to hold discussions with the Prime Minister and Finance Minister on the issue.
While the Prime Minister expressed concerns over the fiscal deficit he however assured it would not affect the funding for the social sector.
Finance Minister P Chidambaram who set the tone for the session deliberated at length on the current economic situation in India vis a vis that globally. He highlighted the steps that government would be adopting to pump in investment flows into the economy - FDI in various sectors, FII inflows, external commercial borrowings. While the government proposed to boost domestic investment through PSU disinvestment and 2G spectrum auction – measures that would raise Rs 30,000 crore to 40,000 crore each. The government, Chidambaram said would also be focusing on maintaining the foreign exchange reserves which stand currently at $ 300 billion.
Chidambaram’s talk led to a flurry of questions from Congressmen on recent economic and unpopular decisions of the government which had made it difficult for the party, as it combated the Opposition in poll going states as in Himachal and Gujarat.
Congress scion Rahul Gandhi, who prominently addressed the gathering, "It is the same Congress which had brought nationalisation of banks and it is the same Congress which liberalised the economy," Rahul reportedly said. Adding, we need to respond to new challenges and we need to meet them.
Congress Media incharge, Janardhan Dwivedi later briefing reporters on the session said that the Congress President had stressed on a more “active” interaction between the party and the government. Dwivedi said that Gandhi had urged that both party and the government need to work cohesively to secure a renewed mandate in Lok Sabha polls 2014.
Other issues that were discussed at the informal interaction session was the need for a “please all budget” and a neeed to prioritise finishing the incomplete agenda of the Congress manifesto of 2009.