For Congress, time to mull over alliances, economy, society

Jaipur Jan 17 (IANS) Pre-and post-poll alliances, ways to shore up the economy, foreign affairs, organisational strength and the recent flash mob protests will be discussed at the Congress' strategy session at Jaipur Jan 18-20.

While Congress chief Sonia Gandhi will set the tone for discussions on the first two days of the 'Chintan Shivir', Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the party's de facto number two Rahul Gandhi, will address the All India Congress Committee session on Jan 20, which will approve the Jaipur declaration.

That declaration is expected to serve as a guide to the party in the nine assembly polls to be held 2013 and the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Rahul Gandhi heads the party's Lok Sabha poll coordination panel. It is understood that he may give some poll-related suggestions.

As the Congress gears for a generational shift in leadership, Rahul Gandhi has ensured that one-third of the 350 delegates - 128 - are from the party's youth wings, the Youth Congress and the National Students Union of India that he heads.

"The Chintan Shivir will start with Sonia Gandhi's speech. She will set the direction for the discussion by the delegates," Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said.

The delegates will be divided into five groups to discuss the following themes: emerging political challenges, socio-economic challenges, women's empowerment, India and the world, and organisational strength.

The top Congress leadership, including Sonia Gandhi, prime minister and Rahul Gandhi will join the five groups in turn for short durations.

The five sub-groups will be headed by senior leaders A.K. Antony, Digvijaya Singh, Girija Vyas, Anand Sharma and Ghulam Nabi Azad. These leaders will later brief the Congress chief on the gist of the debates Saturday afternoon.

The Congress Working Committee, the party's highest decision-making body, will discuss the points raised and approve a final document for consideration of the All India Congress Committee, which will meet Jan 20.

The session is set to open and end with an address from Sonia Gandhi.

Over 1,200 delegates from all over the country will attend the AICC session.

Also present at the three-day review-cum-strategy meet will be chief ministers of several party-ruled states, leaders of Congress legislative parties, central ministers and senior party leaders.

Briefing the media, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said the meet will take place with "simplicity" and the expenses will be borne by the AICC.

"This is purely a party level event so it was decided that the expenses for hotel, vehicle etc will be borne by the AICC. There will be no burden on the government," Gehlot told reporters here.

The chief minister also reviewed the arrangements for the event and gave necessary directions to officials as the weatherman has predicted rains or thunderstorm during the next 2-3 days.

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