On the concluding day of the 83rd plenary of the Congress, attendance was thin, with most delegates milling around outside the giant tent, especially during the discussions on the economic and foreign policy resolutions. On Sunday, too, when the political resolution was debated inside, one delegate pointed out, most delegates were “venting their political frustrations outside, with no political solution in sight.”

On Monday, some doomsayers amongst the delegates even predicted a general election next April.

Indeed, there was little to cheer for party activists: neither the political situation nor the venue, nor the arrangements which many rated as among the shabbiest in years. Indeed, the 500 tents erected at Burari, near here, to accommodate party workers attending the plenary found few takers, with plummeting temperatures and lack of facilities forcing many to look for hotel rooms. By one count, less than one-fifth of the tents were occupied — and that too, only by Sewa Dal workers and policemen on duty.

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In the pre-Perestroika days of the Soviet Union, Western analysts would look at group photographs of party leaders to try and figure out who was in favour and who was not. On Monday, at Burari, journalists were indulging in a similar analysis, and predicting a rise in the fortunes of the two Ministers who were asked to move the economic and foreign policy resolutions, Rural Development Minister C.P. Joshi and Commerce Minister Anand Sharma respectively.

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Top-of-the-mind concerns of delegates from different States also spilled into the proceedings.

First, several delegates from Andhra Pradesh, including legislators, raised slogans for formation of a separate Telangana State, just days ahead of the presentation of the report of the Srikrshna Committee, set up by the Union government to examine the demand. As Ponam Prabhakar, MP from Karimnagar, was speaking, legislators Indrasen Reddy and Yadava Reddy, MPs K. Rajgopal Reddy and G. Vivek as well as Kamalakar Rao, spokesperson of the Andhra Pradesh Congress unit, rose from their seats and shouted Jai Telangana. This was even though Mr. Prabhakar did not refer to the Telangana demand. The leadership sitting on the stage did not react.

Then, a woman from Madhya Pradesh, who was asked to propose a vote of thanks on behalf of the delegates, used the occasion to demand a change in the State leadership. Party sources said the contingent from the State used its time in Delhi, lobbying for a change in the leadership of both the Congress Legislature Party and the PCC.

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