Congress to look within, not at Pak

New Delhi, Jan. 16: Congress chief Sonia Gandhi was engrossed in fine-tuning position papers and holding meetings with chairpersons of five committees a day before leaving for Jaipur for the two-day chintan baithak taking place after 10 years.

This will be followed by a day-long AICC session.

The position papers will not carry the party's official views and will come with a formal disclaimer as ideas in these documents will only be used as reference material or suggestions to be debated by around 400 participants.

The chairpersons of the committees will prepare the final drafts at the end of deliberations on January 19 to be placed before the Congress Working Committee for approval and to be ratified by the AICC the next day.

Although the leadership has maintained secrecy on the position papers, what has filtered through suggests that Jaipur will not make any dramatic shift from the party's known stance on economic reforms, foreign affairs, coalitions, welfare agenda and inclusive politics.

The generational transformation because of Rahul Gandhi's advent will impact organisational dynamics and there will be focused articulation on women's empowerment.

The discourse on Pakistan that has touched a "10-head-for-one" crescendo will not alter the party's approach on foreign affairs. There will be unambiguous reiteration about friendly relations with neighbours.

A member of the committee on "India and World", dealing with this subject, said: "We are not exporting this frenzy to Jaipur where long-term perspectives have to take shape. I don't think we want to send out a message of antagonism to Pakistan from the Congress party's highest forum."

Congress leaders said the Prime Minister's remark on the impossibility of "business as usual" with Pakistan should be viewed in the context of situational logic and not seen as a shift of strategy.

A leader said: "There is tension on the border and people are angry. The Prime Minister cannot send out a 'business as usual' message. Also, there is turmoil in Pakistan and we know we can engage meaningfully with the next government only after around six months. We anyway have to suspend the peace process during this period but there is no plan for war at all."

The political draft has sought to identify problems, accept or reject coalition possibility state-wise and flagged issues like disenchantment of urban voters, problems of communication in the Congress, growing power of social media and the inability of the party's governments in states to effectively implement central schemes. Chief ministers will be pulled up for not performing better than Opposition-ruled states on parameters concerning the UPA's flagship schemes.

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