To get a first-hand account of how the party was faring in Delhi and why it lost the last municipal elections, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had a nearly hour-long meeting with party MPs from the Capital on Monday.
A party source said at the meeting, which was attended by five Lok Sabha MPs–Ajay Maken, J.P. Agarwal, Sandeep Dikshit, Ramesh Kumar and Mahabal Mishra; Rajya Sabha MPs Janardhan Dwivedi and Pervez Hashmi; and All-India Congress Committee general secretary in-charge of Delhi Birender Singh, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family allowed everyone to say his/her part in front of the rest.
Union Minister Ajay Maken said the party lost the MCD elections because the trifurcation took place right before it. He said had the elections been held before the trifurcation, the Congress would have gained on account of the anti-incumbency against the BJP councillors. He said the BJP councillors were also facing corruption charges at the time but due to trifurcation the Congress could not capitalise on it.
Sources said Mr. Maken also observed that it was wrong on the part of the Government functionaries to criticise officials in public. It is believed that he made the reference in the context of Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit criticising Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar in the wake of the December 16 gang-rape case.
West Delhi MP Mahabal Mishra demanded that the Delhi Government give credit to the Centre where it was due. He said it was party president Sonia Gandhi who had launched the distribution of the provisional certificates for the unauthorised colonies in 2008. But now when the colonies have been regularised, the party has missed out on an opportunity to capitalise on the work it has done.
Mr. Mishra demanded that the party organise a major rally at the Ramlila Maidan or some other venue to start the regularisation process.
Pointing out that migrants, who constitute a large percentage of Delhi’s population–with about 28 per cent being from Poorvanchal itself –should be given adequate representation by the Congress in various organisations and boards as they have been supporting the party all through, he called for cashing in on this dedicated vote bank in Delhi, even if it backs the likes of Nitish Kumar or Lalu Prasad in Bihar.
Pervez Hashmi raised the issue of retired bureaucrats being given predominance over senior Congress leaders when it came to appointments to important posts. Mr. Hashmi said the party can gain a lot by giving important posts to its own people in various boards, committees and commissions.
A trusted lieutenant of Ms. Gandhi, Janardhan Dwivedi said the party had not gained due to the 2007 bifurcation of seats in the civic bodies as with smaller seats smaller parties had begun having a greater say in polls.
Mr. Birender Singh raised the issue of the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee not having formed the district committees properly. He said while the block committees have been constituted, problems remained with the district committees. This was contested and denied by DPCC chief J.P. Agarwal who said the entire organisation was in proper shape and it only needed greater support from the Government.
At this Mr. Gandhi is learnt to have told Mr. Agarwal that he would speak to him separately about this entire issue. Mr. Gandhi also acknowledged that while tickets cannot be given to all the aspirants, the Central party would ensure fairness by accommodating the right people in various boards and committees.