Congress avoids Adarsh scam, CWG graft at AICC meet (Afternoon Lead)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

NEW DELHI - The Congress party Tuesday studiously avoided all reference to two raging controversies - the Adarsh housing society scam and the corruption in the Commonwealth Games - at its special All India Congress Committee (AICC) meet here.

The AICC meet was addressed by party chief Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi and other Congress leaders and attended by around 1,200 delegates.

Not a single word was mentioned by the leaders - including Pranab Mukherjee - on the two controversial topics.

In fact, Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan whose role in the Adarsh housing scam is being probed by a two-member Congress panel, was seated on the dais. Party MP Suresh Kalmadi, facing allegations of corruption in the organisation of the Commonwealth Games, was seated in the front row.

When a former chief minister of Orissa, Hemanand Biswal, mentioned about the Commonwealth Games, there was expectation that he would touch upon the corruption issue. But Biswal limited his references to the demand for reservation for tribals in Delhi, who had worked for the Games projects in the national Capital.

The AICC meeting was convened Tuesday to fulfil the party’s constitutional obligation to elect members to the party working committee, the party’s highest decision-making body.

The meeting unanimously authorized Sonia Gandhi to nominate the CWC members and other office-bearers.

Since Sonia Gandhi became president of the party in 1998, elections to CWC have not been held.

In her inaugural remarks, Sonia Gandhi emphasized that the Congress respects its coalition partners in states but would also attempt to gain strength on its own and keep its “political space”.

“The party is in coalition in some states. We respect coalitions but that does not mean we will not work to gain strength or that we will leave our political space,” she said.

Pointing out that 10 states will go to assembly polls in next two years, Gandhi said the party has to work with dedication and unity for its victory in the polls.

Gandhi said the party was steadfast in opposing communalism. The statement adopted by the meeting, which was read by Mukherjee, said “recent revelations through detailed investigations have exposed the true character of RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and its sister organizations”.

Without mentioning Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, she praised his efforts at democratising the working of the Youth Congress and the National Students Union of India (NSUI).

Expressing concern over rising prices, Gandhi said the prices of food items needed to be brought down further and the responsibility for doing so also lay with the states.

Referring to opposition-ruled states, she said they have as much responsibility to check prices as the central government.

On the Allahabad High Court verdict on the Ayodhya dispute, she said it did not condone the demolition of the Babri Masjid and added that the perpetrators must be “brought to justice”.

In his address, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government will always try to ensure that economic development reaches the poorer and weaker sections of society.

“We want an economic development which is equitable,” he said, adding that the Congress-led UPA had in the last six and half years always looked after the welfare of the “aam aadmi (ordinary people)”, he said.

He praised the Congress president for her “dynamic” leadership.

Rahul Gandhi, who participated in the debate on the statement adopted at the meeting, said the empowerment of the poor will take the country forward and his party was striving to bridge the gap between those getting prosperous and those lagging behind.

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