Cong meet shows party is once again leaning on PM

FP

There were many takeaways for the Congress and government from Friday's samvad baithak (dialogue session) at Surajkund. For once, both have more clarity about each other's concerns and priorities. Cap on subsidised LPG cylinders is, therefore, expected to be raised and you may not see unpopular decisions like petrol or LPG price hike around election time. Finance Minister P Chidambaram, on the other hand, has the political backing now to walk the talk to bring down fiscal deficit.

How heartening it must have been for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to hear partymen talk about ways and means to reduce subsidies at Surajkund.

As for the Congress, the exercise helped it exorcise some of its self-created ghosts. It is no more afraid of taking credit for economic reforms as also responsibility for unpopular decisions. It is also willing to get over its persecution and prosecution complex. While some veterans like Kamal Nath raised the issue of media management, the new thinking in the party came from Information & Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari: that solution is to "appropriate" media space through increased participation rather than "regulating" the media.

Marking a paradigm shift in the party's good-cop-bad-cop strategy vis-a-vis the government, Congress president Sonia Gandhi asked partymen to understand the "urgent imperatives" of the government and to explain to the people reasons for unpopular decisions. The fact that she is again leaning on the PM to get the party, and the country, out of the current morass shows that the trust quotient between the two has remained unchanged.

In his ninth year in office and at 80, Singh is re-emerging as the best bet for a party battered by a sling of scams and lack of new ideas and initiatives, even as Rahul Gandhi prepares to change the "political system" as also "the party". "System" figured at least 13 times in his speech at Ramlila Maidan rally.

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