Congress plenary tomorrow

It is also being held at a time when a leaked US diplomatic cable has kicked up a political storm by quoting Rahul Gandhi as saying that Hindu radical groups pose a bigger threat to India than the Lashkar-e-Toiba.

The Plenary, with the theme of "dedication and service of 125 years" is being held against the backdrop of the party's debacle in the Assembly polls in Bihar. The talk of corruption spawned by the leaked conversations in the Radia tapes has also dented the image of the UPA government headed by the Congress.

Facing one of the toughest times in its 125 year history, the Congress will give shape to its strategy to tackle these controversies besides deliberating on crucial issues facing the country.

Party president Sonia Gandhi is expected to spell out the party’s strategy for next year’s assembly elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry.The Congress is dependent on allies like the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and DMK in Tamil Nadu.

The DMK has been grappling with the 2G spectrum controversy with CBI raids on DMK leaders including former Telecom Minister A Raja. While Trinamool Congress appears to be giving a cold shoulder to Congress for alliance in the West Bengal polls, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, whose party is another UPA ally, has said that some decisions of the government have left investors and India Inc disturbed.

From the speech of late Rajiv Gandhi against middlemen in the Congress centenary conclave in Mumbai in 1985 to the 125th year conference in Burari on the city’s outskirts at a time of expose over corporate lobbyists, it has been a long journey for the party.

25 years ago, Rajiv Gandhi had given the call during the centenary celebrations in Mumbai in a hard-hitting address on the state of affairs in the party whose workers, he had said, were "handicapped as on their backs rode the brokers of power and influence".

After leading the party to the biggest victory in the Lok Sabha polls after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi who was then called ‘Mr Clean’, had warned that industrial empires, built on shaky foundations of excessive protection and corruption among others, might not last long.

Now, an embattled Congress is hopping from one controversy after another and as Sonia Gandhi faces the challenge of resurrecting the party and the coalition government from a web of charges.

Notwithstanding the thumping victory in last year’s Lok Sabha elections, things appear to be not going the Congress and the UPA way in the last few months. The 2G spectrum allocation scam is the latest to hit the UPA-II with the Opposition dubbing it as the biggest scandal in independent India with the CAG computing a presumptive loss of Rs1.76 lakh crore to the exchequer.

The country was also rocked by the alleged scams surrounding the Commonwealth Games, whose Organising Committee was headed by Congress MP Suresh Kalmadi, and the Adarsh Housing Society in Mumbai that cost the party Chief Minister Ashok Chavan his job.

The plenary is the third such meet since Sonia Gandhi took over the stewardship of the party in 1998. The scams have given a boost to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and other opposition parties which had paralysed Parliament in the just-concluded Winter Session in what was the longest shutdown of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.

Recently, Sonia Gandhi herself had expressed concern over the growing cases of "graft and greed". The Opposition is unlikely to budge from its stand on the constitution of a Joint Parliamentary Committee to go into the 2G spectrum scam, notwithstanding Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s lament that Parliament was not being allowed to function.

The confrontation between the two sides is expected to grow in the coming days and months with the Opposition determined to carry its campaign on the JPC demand to the Budget session.

Though the plenary is supposed to lay down the party's roadmap for the immediate future, but coming in the backdrop of scandals, the focus of the party’s 83rd plenary will essentially be on how the Congress aggressively counters the opposition charges of corruption.

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