Today’s meeting will also discuss impact of Trinamool’ exit
The Congress is set to endorse the United Progressive Alliance government’s controversial decision on FDI in retail when its apex decision-making body convenes here on Tuesday morning. Though the official agenda simply says the meeting of the Congress Working Committee has been called to discuss the political situation, senior party sources said the two key issues on the table would be FDI in retail and what needed to be done to ensure the continued stability of the government now that the Trinamool exited the UPA.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s opening statement, the sources added, would set the agenda — and tone — for the discussions. The CWC will focus on how to give FDI in retail a positive spin and explain to the people at large how it will benefit both farmers and consumers, while leaving enough space for small traders to exist. Indeed, Ms Gandhi’s speech, these sources said, was likely to provide the talking point for the party. This also comes in the wake of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s televised address last Friday on the rationale for the slew of economic policy decisions taken recently.
The CWC’s “endorsement” of the government’s decision has been planned ahead of the reshuffle of the Council of Ministers, likely to take place either before Wednesday afternoon — when President Pranab Mukherjee leaves for Jammu and Kashmir — or after his return here on Friday morning.
The CWC will also discuss the impact of the Trinamool’s departure on the UPA, and on the West Bengal Congress unit: indeed, on Monday, PCC chief Pradeep Bhattacharya met Dr. Singh to brief him on the subject. Mr. Bhattacharya is understood to have said he did not anticipate any problem in West Bengal even as he urged Dr. Singh to ensure that the State was adequately represented in the Cabinet.
Ever since Mr. Mukherjee was elevated as President, the party has no one from West Bengal at the Centre; and after the stormy exit of the Trinamool and its six Ministers from the government, the State itself has no nominee in the Union Council of Ministers. The names doing the rounds are those of Adhir Chowdhury, Deepa Dasmunsi — and now of Mr. Bhattacharya, a Rajya Sabha member. However, since 30 per cent of West Bengal’s population is Muslim, and three of the six Lok Sabha seats the Congress won in the State in 2009 are held by Muslims (Abdul Mannan Hossain, Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury and Mausam Noor), some party functionaries feel, one of them should be accommodated.
Meanwhile, earlier in the day, Ms. Gandhi held discussions with Road and Transport Minister C.P. Joshi, who was given additional charge of Railways on Saturday after the Trinamool’s Mukul Roy resigned, Congress treasurer Motilal Vora, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, her Political Secretary Ahmed Patel and Congress functionary in charge of Maharashtra and Kashmir Mohan Prakash. Party sources said Mr. Azad, Mr. Patel and Mr. Prakash discussed possible names with Ms. Gandhi for the two Congress vacancies in J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s Cabinet: the vacancies arose after the Congress’ two nominees quit, having got embroiled in scams.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan also met her to discuss affairs of the State and national politics amid speculation that it may get some fresh representation in Delhi after the recent death of Vilasrao Deshmukh.