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Time for party to look forward, Sonia tells CWC

NEW DELHI DEC. 7. The Congress today rallied behind its president, Sonia Gandhi, and its Governments voted out of power in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, while brushing aside the BJP's claim of promoting development.

Ms. Gandhi included herself among those responsible for the debacle in the three States and announced that a group of leaders would go into what was discussed for over seven hours at the Congress Working Committee meeting here and prepare a report within 10 days. The focus would be to gear up the Congress for the challenges ahead — the elections for the Lok Sabha and the Assemblies where polls are due next year.

Although the tape controversy relating to the former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister, Ajit Jogi, came on the eve of the meeting, the party said there was no discussion on the subject. It clarified that Mr. Jogi was suspended from the party for having handed over a letter of support without "due authorisation" of the central leadership. Mr. Jogi, who was disallowed to attend the CWC, was afforded an opportunity to state his case before some senior leaders later.

Ms. Gandhi set the tone at the meeting of the extended Working Committee suggesting it was time for the party to look forward and prepare for the challenges ahead instead of engaging in a round of pointing fingers.

In its resolution, the CWC expressed confidence that the Congress under the leadership of Ms. Gandhi, would rise to the occasion to meet the challenges with courage and conviction and that in this exercise all the "right-thinking progressive and secular forces will support the endeavours of the Congress."

Having affirmed its faith in the party leadership, the CWC noted that "failure or success in an election is a part of the political process... However, we must draw appropriate lessons and identify the reasons for the setback to take corrective measures."

The party alleged that "vulgar display" of financial resources indulged in by the BJP and deployment of the RSS and VHP cadres may have paid electoral dividends, but given the track record of these organisations in spreading communal virus, the emerging electoral trend was a matter of grave concern which, if not checked, was bound to pollute the political system.

"It is ridiculous on the part of the BJP to claim that it won these elections on the slogans of development and good governance. A party having monumental record of promoting communal disharmony and discord and fanning sectarianism cannot claim that suddenly development has become its primary agenda," the resolution noted.

Later, interacting with presspersons, Ms. Gandhi said while there was no question of accepting the offer of resignation by the AICC general secretary, Ambika Soni, she would consider revamping the organisation in due course.

On the criticism that the inability of the Congress to ally with secular parties may have cost dear, she said the party had gone by the judgment of its Chief Ministers on the issue.

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