Congress endorses Rahul as no.2, optimistic of UPA-III

Jaipur, Jan 20 (IANS) The Congress party Sunday wholeheartedly endorsed the decision to officially name Rahul Gandhi the party's no.2 and voiced optimism it could emerge victorious in 2014 if it worked in "the right way" and is "united".

A day after the Congress Working Committee, the party's highest policy-making body, unanimously passed a resolution naming Rahul Gandhi the vice president, over 1,200 delegates of the All India Congress Committee at the 'Chintan Shivir' here raised their hands to endorse the decision.

Many party leaders and members of the youth wings clapped and raised pro-Rahul Gandhi slogans and demands that he be made the party's prime ministerial candidate in 2014.

Rahul Gandhi, who sat on the floor along with his mother and party chief Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh kept smiling. He later stood up and thanked everyone with folded hands.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, addressing the delegates, said there was "no reason" the party should not get public mandate again if it works in the right way.

"There is only 15 months left for the (2014) elections. I am confident, if we work in the right way and are united, there is no reason we should not get public mandate again," she said addressing the last day of the 'Chintan Shivir' or introspection meet at the Rajasthan capital.

She stressed that discipline and unity was needed, and added that party members should publicise the good work done by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

Touching on the Dec 16 Delhi gang-rape, Sonia Gandhi said the victim "embodied the spirit of an aspirational India" and the government would ensure her sacrifice did not go in vain.

The Congress president assured she would continue to press for passage of the women's reservation bill for one-third reservation to women in assemblies and parliament.

On corruption, for which the UPA has been targeted, Sonia Gandhi said the party must lead the "struggle" to counter its effect.

Terming corruption a "deep-rooted malaise", the Congress chief said a five-point agenda to deal with it has been given and the party has moved ahead with it.

The key among the steps taken was introducing Lokpal bill in parliament and introducing more transparency in process of allocating natural resources.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said while the UPA government was more successful than the NDA in reducing poverty and bringing inclusive development, it was not very effective in communicating it to the people.

He said the government had not received all the credit for its work due to shortcomings in its communication strategy.

The prime minister said concrete steps are being taken to check price rise it in the coming fiscal.

He assured the government would make all amendments in the law needed to ensure more safety for women.

Touching on the rising border tension with Pakistan, the prime minister said India wants friendly relations with Islamabad, but it will not be possible unless Pakistan makes equal efforts.

He said the killing of two Indian soldiers by Pakistani troops near the Line of Control may have an effect on bilateral relations.

"The inhuman act of Pakistan along the Line of Control on January 8 is known to all. We are constantly reviewing our relations with Pakistan and we have made it clear this incident may have bad influence on the bilateral relations," Manmohan Singh.

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