Give up discretionary powers: Sonia to CMs

Silence greets Cong presidents advice on party clean-up

“We have ample evidence that all discretionary powers, particularly in land allocation, breed corruption. I would like all Congress chief ministers and ministers at both the Centre and states to set an example by reviewing and relinquishing such powers,” she said, while delivering her inaugural address at the 83rd plenary session of the party at Burari on the outskirts of Delhi.

Though nearly 20,000 Congress delegates  loudly applauded almost each paragraph of the party president’s speech, none in the huge makeshift pavilion clapped when she called upon chief ministers and ministers to give up their discretionary powers.

Sonia did take a note of the unusual aberration. She turned to AICC General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi and other office-bearers on the podium and muttered with a wry smile: “No clapping for this!”

The Congress had drawn flak for keeping mum on the issue of corruption during the brief one-day AICC session it held in early November.

But Gandhi on Sunday said the party and the government should “confront corruption head-on”. Stressing on the need to ponder over “how best to decisively take forward” the proposal of “state funding of elections”, the Congress president called for instituting a new system of fast-tracking all cases that concern corruption by public servants, including politicians, to ensure that the guilty were brought to book quickly and those unfairly charged cleared.

Emphasising the need to enact legislation and lay down clear procedures in order to ensure transparency in public procurement and contracts, she advocated for an open, competitive system of exploiting natural resources – as promised by her party ahead of 2009 parliamentary polls.

“Congressmen and women holding office must not allow any doubt about their probity and integrity,” she said, adding that simplicity, restraint and austerity must be the chosen way of the party leaders and activists. “We cannot make this a law. But, in a country, where poverty is still widespread, let us at least have the moral sensibility to avoid vulgar displays of wealth and waste.”

Reaffirming her and the party’s total support to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Congress president said the BJP’s personal attack on him in connection with the 2G scam was “downright despicable”. With the prime minister himself on the podium, she said Singh was “the embodiment of sobriety, dignity and integrity”.

She also slammed the BJP and other Opposition parties for disrupting the entire winter session of Parliament demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the telecom scam.

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