Post office, food courts, tented township - all set for Congress plenary

By Prashant Sood, IANS
Wednesday, December 15, 2010

NEW DELHI - Food courts resembling airport hangars, a conference hall large enough for a sprint race, rows of neatly laid out tents and even a post office - an elaborate, makeshift township on the outskirts of the capital awaits the 20,000 Congress members who arrive here for the three-day plenary beginning Saturday.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who are expected to arrive at Burari in northwest Delhi in a helicopter, will have rooms and offices close to the main dais of the conference hall.

Being held in the backdrop of corruption scandals and a belligerent opposition refusing to let parliament function, the plenary will pass resolutions on economic, political and foreign affairs and mark the culmination of 125th anniversary celebrations of the grand old party.

The All India Congress Committee (AICC) office will also shift to tents for the last two days of the meeting.

The “city of tents”, as Congress leaders describe the venue, at the sprawling ground along the highway connecting Delhi with Chandigarh road looks from a distance like a big exhibition centre. The main conference hall at the centre of the venue can accommodate around 14,000 chairs.

The entire team of Delhi ministers has been assigned specific tasks, including food, accommodation, cleanliness and medical facilities to ensure that there are no glitches. Roads outside the venue are being relaid and tents are being decked in party colours.

“We are expecting around 20,000 partymen from all over the country to attend. I am very enthusiastic as it will be one of the party’s largest meetings,” Delhi Congress chief J.P. Agarwal told IANS.

He said the participants include about 8,000 Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) delegates and AICC members, district and block Congress leaders, representatives from party’s frontal organisations and special invitees to various committees.

“Since the event is in Delhi, local MLAs may also also seek passes for their supporters,” he said.

Agarwal, MP from Northeast Delhi, said arrangements had been made for stay of over 5,000 party members in tents.

“Many leaders coming from outside Delhi have their own arrangements for stay. Party members from adjoining areas of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan are also unlikely to stay at the venue,” he said.

Railway and airline reservation counters and a temporary post office will be set up for the convenience of delegates. A medical centre with 10 beds will also come up. There will be counters to facilitate coordination with delegates from states.

The party has not given any name to its city of tents for which work started about fortnight back. Party leaders are hesitant to talk about the cost but a senior leader said the event will cost above Rs.15 crore.

The party has hired a contractor to put up tents. Delhi Social welfare Minister Mangat Ram Singhal has been given charge of the food arrangements for which four hangar-like tents have been erected.

“There will be variety of food to cater to people from different parts of the country,” a party leader said. A separate hangar will have facilities for the media. The last plenary was held in Hyderabad in 2006.

The arrangements will be coordinated by Congress Seva Dal workers who have started arriving in at the venue from different parts of the country.

The ground on the outskirts of the city has in the past been used for religious congregations and was chosen by the Congress for the plenary as it can accommodate a large gathering.

Party faithful have already started dotting the road to the venue with pictures of Sonia Gandhi, her son and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi and daughter Priyanaka Gandhi Vadra.

“The plenary will enthuse party workers,” Agarwal said, brushing aside questions about controversies relating to the 2G spectrum allocation and Commonwealth Games having an impact on the party’s mood for the plenary.

(Prashant Sood can be contacted at

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